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Warm Up to Exercise

Fitness for mind and body.

The American Institute for Cancer Research recommends that we take a brisk walk or do a similar activity for about an hour each day to help lower our risk of cancer and improve our overall health.

An important thing to remember as you exercise is that stretching your muscles can help you stay active and flexible.

Many people assume that inflexible muscles are a fact of life once they begin to age. However, muscle flexibility can be developed by men and women of all ages through a basic stretching program that helps your muscles to expand and contract completely.

Yoga Stretch Pose Try incorporating some basic stretching exercises into your regular workout for increased flexibility and a more complete fitness regimen. Yoga is also an excellent way to maintain your flexibility. Yoga come in many forms; read Safety Tips for Yoga Beginners to learn where to begin. Yoga is highly recommended to all! Even those who suffer the pain of arthritis can benefit from a gentle yoga program.

Maintaining and increasing flexibility is increasingly important as we age because it can protect against injury. For example, if you slip and fall, you'll be better able to handle the abrupt movement without incurring an injury because your muscles will be more elastic. A sedentary lifestyle, however, leads to the gradual loss of joint mobility, which increases the risk of joint or muscle injury.

If you are trying to increase your range of motion, you should spend most of your time stretching after you exercise, not before. This relieves tension in the muscles, which tend to tighten after exercise. Avoid bouncing and jerking your muscles when you stretch to avoid injury. Hold each stretch for 10 to 20 seconds and breath normally. You may feel mild discomfort, but stop at the first sign of pain. In general, stretching three times a week can help maintain flexibility.

Here are a few simple stretches to increase your flexibility, and help you feel less tense.

  • Doorway Stretch. Stand in a doorway with your arms out to the side, holding firmly onto the doorway. Lean forward and let your torso hang through the doorway (not too far) with your arms behind you.
  • Doorway Stretch

    • Leg and Back Stretch. Lie on your back with your knees bent. Grasp one leg under the knee and bring it gently toward your chest, while extending the other leg straight out on the floor. Repeat with the other leg, then bring both knees toward your chest.

    Leg and Back Stretch

    • Leg Stretch. Sit upright on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you. Keeping your knees slightly bent, lean your torso towards your thighs and hold.

    Leg Stretch

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    Disclaimer: The material on this Web site is not intended to replace advice from your doctor or fitness professional. Please consult with your physician before beginning any fitness program or fat or weight reduction program. FitnessandFreebies.com takes no responsibility for individual results, or any claim made by a third party.