by Alex Clark MCSP, In House Physiotherapist at Neo G
Exercise comes in all shapes and sizes – we all have our reasons for exercising, whether it’s to simply stay active, or to train for a hike in the Himalayas. However, what is consistent regardless of your exercise regime is that it is always important to stretch your muscles to help prevent injury and reduce avoidable pain.
Did you know there is a wrong way to stretch?
Warming up is vital to getting the most out of your workouts, but many people just aren’t doing it, and when they are, they’re focusing on static stretches. These sorts of stretches, where you extend a limb and hold it in a certain position, have been shown to potentially inhibit performance and make it more likely that you’ll get injured, as stretching loosens the muscles and gives them less support. Before a workout, always make sure you do dynamic stretches, where you move as you stretch, tailored around the specific activity you are going to be doing to help prepare the muscle for activity correctly. For example, this could be lunges if you’re going for run or arm circles if you’re hitting the weights. Look to do static stretches after you exercise instead.
Here are some simple stretches you can do before you embark on any kind of exercise to ensure your body is ready to take you on your next adventure…
Going on a long walk? Lunge…
Lunges are great if you’re going to be walking long distances or covering a lot of hills. Not only do lunges strengthen the glutes, they also help improve your balance and stretch out your hip flexors, helping increase strength and hopefully lessening the chance of injury. Try this exercise before your next big walk.
- Step forward with a long stride and drop your back leg toward the ground but without touching it. Focus on keeping your front knee over your ankle. Do 10 lunges, and then repeat on the other leg.
These are some of the easiest and quickest dynamic stretches to perform, making them great for a quick pre-walk exercise. Leg swings help to warm up and stretch the muscles around the hip joint, preventing injuries and reducing pain in the area.
- To do this exercise, stand on one leg. Swing the other loosely from the hip, front to back. Make sure to use a relaxed motion and ensure your foot doesn’t go higher than a foot off the ground. Do 15-20 swings on each side.
Your whole body is getting a work-out when you’re walking, so ensuring the whole body is warmed up is vital. Arm circles warm up and help stretch out the shoulders, arms, chest and upper back.
- To complete the exercise, hold both arms straight out to your sides. Make 10-12 slow backward circles with your hands, starting small and finishing with large circles, using your entire arm. Shake your arms out and repeat with 10 to 12 forward circles.
Hiking with a heavy bag… Shoulder rotations
Any type of walking will use the muscles in the back and arms, as you will often find you swing your arms more on a tough walk in order to propel your body further. Add a backpack into the mix and you’ll find there’s extra strain being put on the back, shoulders and arms, meaning a warm-up for this area is vital.
The arm swings above will help with this but add in some shoulder rotations to help you cope with the strain in this area.
- Standing tall, rotate the shoulders in a big, smooth, circular motion. Bring the shoulders back, then up toward the ears, and then forward and down as low as possible. Repeat ten times, and then go in the opposite direction.
These simple stretches will make a big difference to how you feel pre and post exercise, giving you more flexibility and movement to stay active and live a healthy lifestyle.
We hope this helps stretch and prepare your muscles. If you do have ongoing muscle aches and pains we have a full range of medical grade supports, braces, tapes and compression hosiery for all ages and body parts that can help – view the full range here.
Our VCS range offers varying levels of support from mild to moderate to firm to provide optimum protection and stability. As a one size solution, these supports are fully adjustable to allow for a custom fit. In addition to this, the heat therapeutic neoprene helps to warm muscles and joints during exercise and rehabilitation, making the VCS range perfect for supporting instability during weights and gym training, as well as helping strains, sprains and weak, arthritic joints.
For support in everyday activities, the Airflow and Airflow+ ranges offer lightweight, slimline supports that protect and reduce the impact on joints and muscles. Perfect for taking a walk, playing sport or support with day to day strain.
If its rest and recovery you need, our hot and cold therapy range offers just that. While heat therapy helps to target muscle and joint pain by relaxing muscles and improving blood flow, cold therapy works to tackle muscle swelling, soothing aches and pains.
Read more in our full Hot & Cold Therapy post.