If you have exactly 30 minutes and 30 seconds to go for a jog between a work meeting and a hair appointment, it can be tempting to skip the stretch. However, performing aerobic exercise -- any continuous activity that increase your heart and breathing rate -- without stretching can do serious damage to your body. After you warm up your muscles with a brisk walk, stretch for a few minutes before you begin aerobic activity. Once you've finished exercising, stretch again to keep your muscles loose and limber.
Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet on the floor. With both hands reach behind your right knee and pull the knee to your chest. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds and repeat on the opposite side. This exercise stretches your back and hips.
Lie on your back and reach both hands behind your right knee. Bring the knee perpendicular to your hips, then slowly straighten your right leg to stretch the hamstrings. Only stretch to the point of tension. If you feel any pain, release the leg back to the floor. Repeat on the opposite side.
Stand in front of a wall or sturdy piece of furniture. Reach behind you with your right hand and grasp your right foot. Stabilize your body by placing your left palm on the wall. Slowly pull your right foot toward your buttocks to stretch the thigh muscles. Keep your core tight and don't arch your back. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds and repeat on the opposite side.
Stand with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart. Put your hands on your hips for balance. Slowly shift your weight onto your left foot and bend your left knee. Don't allow your left knee to travel past the big toe. Keep your feet flat on the floor. Hold the groin stretch for 30 seconds, then repeat on the opposite side.
Cross your legs with both feet pointed forward. Let your head drop forward and bend at the waist to reach for your toes. Only reach until you feel tension, then hold the position for 30 seconds to stretch your iliotibial band.
Reach with your right hand behind your head for your lower back. Gently grasp your right elbow with your left hand to stretch the triceps. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds, then repeat on the opposite side.
- One way to warm up before aerobic exercise is to perform a series of dynamic stretches or gentle movements of the arms and legs. For instance, to stretch your shoulders and pecs, lie on your back with your knees bent. Roll your shoulders up to your ears, then relax. Or, walk by swinging your right leg -- toe-pointed -- toward your outstretched left arm. Repeat the same motion on the opposite side.
- Truly effective dynamic stretching is sports specific. Ask a trainer for stretching suggestions.
- Do not stretch if you have a history of joint, muscle, ligament or vertebral injury.
- If you feel pain, or a burning or tearing sensation, stop stretching immediately and consult your physician.
- Always warm up before you stretch. Stretching cold muscles can cause injury.
Carolyn Robbins began writing in 2006. Her work appears on various websites and covers various topics including neuroscience, physiology, nutrition and fitness. Robbins graduated with a bachelor of science degree in biology and theology from Saint Vincent College.