A PT Shares the 7 Stretches He Does Every Day To Keep His Body ‘Young and Healthy’

7 best stretches to keep you flexible
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The older you get, your mobility holds the key to aging happily and healthily.

Most of us understand that, in order to be healthy, we need to exercise.

However, there are multiple different kinds of exercise. Broadly speaking, exercise modes can be broken down into cardiovascular activity, resistance training exercises, and flexibility moves. 

Each of these modes is critical for our health. Flexibility is essential for joint health and total body mobility. 

However, we often neglect flexibility training in favor of more “glamorous” workouts involving cardio and weight lifting.

In this article, I will 

  • Review the concepts of mobility and flexibility
  • Highlight some of the top stretches that should be performed daily. 

If you stick with this routine, your joints and muscles will thank you!

Flexibility Vs. Mobility

7 Top Stretches for a Healthy Body

Within the fitness community, there is an odd argument that often develops concerning mobility and flexibility movements (1). 

Truthfully, it’s probably most accurate to refer to slow, passive, sustained stretches as flexibility exercises (2). These stretches are implemented in order to improve joint range of motion. 

Further, mobility exercises are those that use more active muscle tension in order to improve movement in general. However, mobility exercises can also often improve joint range of motion.

In my mind, it really doesn’t matter (in most cases) which term you use. As long as you’re performing regular exercises that improve your joint range of motion and your movement quality, you’ll be in good shape.

7 Top Stretches for a Healthy Body

If possible, it’s best to perform these stretches every day. However, I understand that life can get in the way sometimes. 

If you miss a day of stretching here or there, don’t beat yourself up. Just get up the next day, and settle back into your routine.

Each of these stretches should be performed as follows:

  • Hold the stretched position for 10 seconds, repeating 10 times per session.
  • Aim for a feeling of “mild discomfort” with every stretch.
  • If you have any sharp pain during the stretch that will not go away, discontinue the stretch and seek medical attention.

Now, let’s take a look at the top 7 stretches for a healthy body!

1. Fire Hydrants

Fire hydrant: best stretches for flexibility

This stretch looks similar to how a dog might go to the bathroom on a fire hydrant, hence the name!

Fire hydrants are a great exercise for waking up the hips and improving lower body motion in general.

How to Perform

  • Begin by placing your hands and knees on the floor.
  • Keeping your back level, lift your right leg off of the ground (out to the side) while keeping your knee bent.
  • Hold the stretched position for 10 seconds, then return to the starting position.
  • Repeat 10 times per side, per day.
  • In order to increase the difficulty of this exercise, you can rotate the leg backward, into a donkey kick position instead of returning the knee to the ground between reps.

2. Pigeon Stretch

Pigeon Stretch
Source // Naturalforce.com

For many people, the piriformis muscle presents a big problem.

Often, this muscle (and its nearby companions) will be extremely tight. This can lead to serious pain and dysfunction.

By stretching out the hip rotators and the piriformis, you are likely to feel so much looser!

How to Perform

  • Begin on your hands and knees.
  • Slowly, shift all of your weight onto your left knee and hands. 
  • Next, bring your right ankle forward and place it slightly in front of your left knee. At this point, you will likely feel a big stretch in your right buttocks.
  • If you’re able to, you should next strive to slide your left leg backward further. This will increase the stretch in your left hip flexor area as well.
  • Hold this stretch for 10 seconds, and repeat 10 times on each side, once per day.

3. Single Leg Middle Split Stretch

Single Leg Middle Split Stretch

Even though most people will never achieve a true split, it never hurts to loosen up these muscles!

Working on the components of a middle split will stretch out your adductor muscles. This will help to improve your hip health overall.

How to Perform

  • Start on your hands and knees.
  • From this starting position, slowly spread your knees out slightly.
  • Beginning with the left leg, kick your knee out straight. By doing so, you should feel an increase in a stretch of your left hip adductor muscles.
  • Hold this stretch for 10 seconds, then bend your knee to release the stretch. Repeat this pattern 10 times per leg, per session.

4. Cat-Camel

Cat-Camel Stretch and flexibility

There are many different types of yoga classes which all incorporate different stretches. However, you’d be hard-pressed to find a yoga class where the cat-camel doesn’t appear!

This stretch is perfect for improving the mobility of the upper back. 

How to Perform

  • Place your hands and knees on the floor.
  • Allow your low back to sag as you raise your head upward, extending your neck.
  • Hold this position for 10 seconds, then tuck your chin to your chest and round out your back. At this point, you should imagine the position a cat assumes as it hisses at something.
  • Hold this position for 10 seconds, then return to the “camel”.
  • Repeat this alternating pattern for 10 rounds, once per day.

5. Seated T-Pose

Seated T-Pose Stretch for flexibility
Photo: HealthDay

Golfers and those with stiff upper backs will love this stretch. Thoracic spine rotation is severely lacking in many people. Luckily, by improving your thoracic rotation, you can often experience improved shoulder and back mobility with decreased pain.

How to Perform

  • Sit in a firm chair, near the front edge.
  • Lean forward and place your left hand on the ground between your feet.
  • As you do so, rotate your back and raise your right arm up toward the ceiling.
  • Hold this position for 10 seconds and repeat 10 times on each side per session.

6. Shoulder Mobility Flow

Shoulder Mobility Flow
Photo: HealthDay

For many people, shoulder pain is a chronic, debilitating issue.

Therefore, it’s a good idea to perform some routine maintenance on your shoulders by completing this mobility flow every day.

How to Perform

  • Kneel on the ground, using padding as necessary.
  • Keeping your elbows straight, raise your arms to about 90 degrees, with your palms facing each other.
  • Then, reach your hands up overhead, continuing to keep your palms facing one another.
  • Next, rotate the arms backward, opening up the chest. Your palms should now be facing forward.
  • Hold each of the above positions for 10 seconds as you complete 10 circles. Repeat once per day.

7. Neck Rolls

Neck Rolls

Office workers, athletes, and many others struggle with neck stiffness. For this reason, neck rolls offer the perfect flexibility solution that can be performed anywhere, anytime.

How to Perform

  • In standing or sitting, ensure that your spine is as straight as possible.
  • Slowly lower your chin down to your chest.
  • Next, roll your head so that your left ear is by your left shoulder.
  • Continue to roll your head backward so that you are looking up at the ceiling.
  • Then, roll your head so that your right ear is close to your right shoulder.
  • Finally, return your chin to your chest and repeat 10 rolls clockwise and counterclockwise per session.

Conclusion

Most people who work out focus exclusively on cardio and resistance training. Don’t be like most people!

One of the best ways to keep your body healthy and young is to perform easy mobility exercises every day. Try this routine out right now!

Works Cited

  1. Notarnicola, A., Perroni, F., Campese, A., Maccagnano, G., Monno, A., Moretti, B., & Tafuri, S. (2018). Flexibility responses to different stretching methods in young elite basketball players. Muscles, ligaments and tendons journal7(4), 582–589. https://doi.org/10.11138/mltj/2017.7.4.582
  2. Nishikawa, Y., Aizawa, J., Kanemura, N., Takahashi, T., Hosomi, N., Maruyama, H., Kimura, H., Matsumoto, M., & Takayanagi, K. (2015). Immediate effect of passive and active stretching on hamstrings flexibility: a single-blinded randomized control trial. Journal of physical therapy science27(10), 3167–3170. https://doi.org/10.1589/jpts.27.3167

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Bennett Richardson, DPT, PT, CSCS

Bennett Richardson is a physical therapist and writer out of Pittsburgh, PA. He has maintained certification as a strength and conditioning coach (CSCS) since 2014. He then went on to earn a BS in exercise science and a doctorate degree in physical therapy, both from Slippery Rock University. In his free time, Bennett likes to read and exercise.

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