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Last Updated on December 16, 2020

These 13 Leg Stretches Will Prevent Pain and Injury During Exercise

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These 13 Leg Stretches Will Prevent Pain and Injury During Exercise

Can leg stretches really make a difference? You are lucky enough just to fit in the exercise itself – and now you see that more should be added to your regimen? We will talk about how you can make the most of your time, and give you some key concepts for preventing pain and avoiding injury.

How much time should you spend stretching your legs, and how often should you stretch them? Having measured and fair answers to questions like this can save you plenty of pain, time, and frustration. We can help you find your starting place and make a plan to safely enjoy your lower body exercise routine through leg stretches.

The degree to which you will most benefit from stretching will depend on your chosen activity. If you wish to spend time doing aerial yoga, your body may benefit more from additional stretching than if you choose to enjoy a bike ride on a paved trail.[1]

Let’s talk about a few options as you consider what will work best for you. We will begin with a few tips on leg stretching and then introduce you to some specific stretches for the lower extremities.

Leg Stretching Tips for Starters

1. Learn to make the most of idle moments during the day

True, it is best to prepare your body for exercise just before – and after – your chosen activity. However, it is also beneficial to train your body to stay ready for activity throughout each day. This helps to remind muscles and joints that they can be called into action at any time. We will talk a bit more about the relationship between exercise and stretching in a moment.

Choose one stretch to complete as you:

  • Prepare your coffee or favorite tea
  • Enjoy watching a bird in a tree during lunch
  • Have a conversation at work
  • Wait in line (Why not make the most of that popcorn line at the cinema?)
  • Hang a picture
  • Tie your shoes

2. Use it to keep it

Remind yourself that the physical ability that you currently have will stay with you longer and better if you continue to employ its usage. Getting started or coming back from an injury can be frustrating. Be intentional about maintaining your health.

Knowing that you have already chosen to accomplish a goal makes getting past the first few attempts much easier. Then, just keep pressing on one stretch at a time until you have found several that you like and will do regularly.

3. Rest, relax, enjoy

Your body requires rest for proper rejuvenation. Listen to your body. Give it what it needs and the hard work you do with your new stretches and favorite exercises will go much further.

Think smarter, not harder. Know when to stop and enjoy the benefits of your hard work to help avoid injury.[2]

4 Alert your body

You need to give your body a fair ‘warning’ that you are ready to move your legs, core, and arms in a more commanding manner. These stretches have been selected with the idea that you may be seeking to overcome or avoid injury to one or both legs. As you recover, please feel free to add 15 to 30 seconds to the length of each stretch.

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A good warm-up regimen will include 10 to 15 minutes of slightly less strenuous activity than you plan to include in your actual exercise time. The goal is to alert your body that it is time to work and give it time to ‘wake up’ and respond prior to enjoying your more strenuous exercise activity.

Spending a few moments doing a less intense activity gives your heart time to start sending extra blood to your muscles. Muscles love to be ready for action through added nutrients in this manner.

If you plan to run 3 to 5 miles, walk or jog for about 0.5 to 1 mile prior to increasing your pace. If you plan to run 10 miles, proceed at a slower pace for about 2 miles.

5. Decide whether to stretch before or after exercise

It is pretty safe to say that at least some gentle stretching and warming up should be completed prior to any athletic endeavor.[3] Taking a few moments to alert your body that additional activity will soon happen is essential for protecting your muscles. How much stretching will depend on your chosen exercise and desired level of intensity.

Consider your activity when deciding whether or not you will benefit most from stretching before or after your exercise activity. Do you plan to perform in an event that will require you to be relaxed, flexible, and in control of your limbs? You may find that stretching before your event helps you perform at a higher level of ability.

On the other hand, you may wish to simply enjoy a run in the park? If so, you may find greater lasting benefit by performing most of your stretching routine after you run.

13 Leg Stretches for You to Choose

Fortunately, the many tiny portions of our legs overlap naturally with one another. This means that we almost cannot stretch only one tiny element of the body by itself.

We will almost certainly bring benefit to multiple portions of each limb with each individual action.[4] Think about it, can yo u stretch your feet without moving your toes? Thank you, mother nature! Let’s choose your favorite leg stretches:

1. Foot Overlap

Sit on the floor with both legs straight in front of you. Each leg should be slightly bent. Place your left leg over your right leg. Reach your left foot just beyond your right foot and gently pull both feet toward your body.

You should feel a slight pull from your feet all the way up through your right calf and left shin. Hold for a count of 10. Switch feet.

2. Ankle Circles

Make circles with your toes. To make it interesting, rotate one way five times, then the other way five times. You can also try alternating the rotational motion of each foot for some added practice in coordination.

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3. Shin Relax

This stretch is far more comfortable and effective while not wearing shoes. Stand up straight with your spine lengthened and your shoulders square with your feet and toes. Slowly swing your right leg behind you and point the toes on your right foot away from your body. The tops of your toes should rest comfortably on the floor.

Gently draw your body down a few inches as you bend your left knee. You should feel a slight stretch from the tops of your toes to just below your right knee. Hold for a count of 10. Switch legs.

4. Thirsty Calf

Sit with your legs straight in front of you. Gently point all of your toes away from your body. Hold for a count of 10. Bring your left knee up until the sole of your left foot is resting flat on the floor.

While sitting up straight, draw a towel, stretch band, or similar around your right foot ad bring your foot toward your body. You may also choose to lean forward at the waist and use your hands to pull your toes toward you.

Hold for a count of 10. Switch sides.

5. Quadricep Choice

Quad stretches should be chosen based on your level of comfort and whether or not you have any knee injuries. Whether or not you choose to rest on your stomach, side, or stand will depend on your preference.

Once in your chosen starting position, pull your right foot back gently to come as close to your right buttock as you can. You may choose to place a strap around your foot if you are unable to reach. Hold for a count of 10. Switch sides.

6. Hamstrings Hex

Begin in a standing position with your shoulders and hips square. Turn your left foot so that your toes point to the left. Keep your left knee slightly bent and comfortable. Turn your upper body to the left.

Bending at the waist, slowly bring your arms down to meet as far down your leg as may be comfortable. Hold for a count of 10. Switch sides.

7. Pigeon for Hips

Begin with both hands and both knees on the floor and your back raised (table top position). Your hips and shoulders should be square. Bring your left leg up under your torso as is comfortable. Be sure to bring the leg up far enough to feel a gentle pull, but not so far that it is painful. You will feel the stretch in your left hamstring and right hip area. Hold for a count of 10. Switch sides.

If you have existing knee pain, consider this alternative. Stand with your shoulders and hips square. Place your left foot directly behind you. Bend slightly at both knees and bring your body straight down. Be sure that your right knee stays above your right ankle and does not pass your right toes. Hold for a count of 10. Switch sides.

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    8. Glute Twist

    Sit on the floor with both legs straight and relaxed. Point your toes to the sky. Bring your left foot across your right leg onto the floor. Reach your right elbow to the left of your right knee. Face your upper body to the left as you bring your left hand to the floor.

    Keep your shoulders upright. Press against your left leg with your right elbow until you feel a gentle pull in your left glute. Hold for a count of 10. Switch sides.

      9. Leg Hug

      Lay flat on your back. Draw your left knee to your chest. Pull your left leg into your chest with both arms. Hold for 10 seconds. Switch legs.

      10. Leaning Lunge Twist

      Start in a lunge position with your right leg behind you. Take your right hand to the floor even with your left foot. Raise your left arm straight up. Look up to your fingertips.

      Be sure to keep your left knee above your left ankle and not over your toes. Breathe out as you count to 10. Switch sides. You should feel this in your hips, quads, calves, shins, and right foot.

        11. Changing Butterfly

        Sit on the floor with the soles of your feet together. You will do this stretch in three forms.

        Begin with your feet as close to you as is comfortable. Lean forward at the waist to feel the stretch in your inner thighs. Hold for a count of 10. Next, move your feet away from your body about three to five inches. Lean forward again and hold for 10 seconds.

        Then, push your feet forward another three to five inches. Your legs should be close to straight but still bent at the knees with the soles of your feet still touching. Lean forward at the waist again and hold for 10 seconds. Breath out slowly each time as you count.

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        12. Changing Forward Bend

        Stand with your legs about shoulder width apart. Slightly bend both knees. Reach your arms toward your feet as you bend at the waist. Hold for a count of 10.

        Next, do the same stretch with your legs about 12 to 18 inches apart. Then, repeat the stretch again with your feet next to each other.

        13. Toes to Hip

        Stand (or sit) and place your right leg slightly behind you. Begin with just your right toes on the floor (left foot still planted). Roll the arch of your right foot down to eventually have your entire foot on the floor behind you. As your right heel reaches the floor, lean back slightly to feel the stretch in your upper leg. Do this three to five times and switch sides.

        A note on knees: Isolating your knees for stretching is a bit less than feasible. As a joint located in the middle portion of the leg, the knee will most efficiently be stretched as you successfully stretch the other portions.

        However, keep in mind that each stretch should be done without pressing or forcing your knee over your toes or into any position that feels strained. Notice how you can feel each of these stretches reach through the connections in each knee.

          The Bottom Line

          Preventing pain and injury to your legs while enjoying your favorite exercise does not have to be painful, enduring, or difficult. If you employ these options with regularity, the powerful tools that carry help to mobilize the rest of your body will thank you!

          Choose a few favorites from this list and remember to be gentle with your muscles and tendons as you complete each stretch. Never force anything or complete stretches in a jerky or forced manner.

          Finding a few favorite leg stretches can go a long way in providing an incentive for keeping limbs ready and equipped for your daily adventures!

          If you appreciated these leg stretching tips, you may love these 10 Simple Morning Exercises That Will Make You Feel Great All Day!

          Featured photo credit: i yunmai via unsplash.com

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          Reference

          [1] Competitor Running: Using Yoga For Injury Prevention and Recovery
          [2] Better Health Chiropractic: Should I Exercise If I Have An Injury?
          [3] NHS: Do I need to stretch before exercising?
          [4] The Active Times: 7 Benefits of Stretching

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          Dr. Brent Wells, D.C.

          Chiropractic doctor currently leading over 10,000 Alaskans to more active, pain-free lifestyles โ€“ without addictive drugs or invasive surgeries.

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          Last Updated on October 4, 2021

          5 Best Exercises for Weight Loss at Home

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          5 Best Exercises for Weight Loss at Home

          With the lines of work and home becoming increasingly blurry, it’s no wonder why we struggle to find the time to prioritize our health. Particularly with weight loss, it’s often difficult to manage the ever-present constraints around work, children, time to exercise, and the feeling of exhaustion at the end of the day.

          Taking the effects of stress and the rise of remote work and work-from-home situations, we need to be far more tactical in our weight loss pursuits. Quite often, these exercises for weight loss at home aren’t even fitness-related.

          Firstly, let’s look at a standard day in the life of a busy professional or parent to really understand the battlefield in which we need to operate.

          We all have 24 hours in a day to work with. Knowing how we spend that 24 hours is crucial when learning where time will be best spent for our weight loss journey. Setting unrealistic expectations can be a quick way to end up back at square one.

          • Sleep: 8 hours (parents, if you’re lucky)
          • Work: 8 hours (sometimes more)
          • Children: 2 to 4 hours (includes pickups, drop-offs, and play)
          • Meal Preparation: 1 hour (at a minimum)
          • Household Activities: 1 to 2 hours (because someone’s got to do it, right?)
          • Total: 20 to 22 hours

          Taking into account that switching between tasks takes time and cognitive space, we can start to understand why people just want to sit and scroll through social media at the end of a day. We also haven’t factored in the work commute if you have to report to the office.

          Just realized you now have minimal time to yourself? This might start to explain why you struggle to gain momentum in your weight loss journey. Let’s work out how to take back the initiative:

          • Automate – Are there any tasks you can automate? If you’re fortunate enough to be gainfully employed, maybe it’s time to hire a cleaner or have ready-made meals delivered to your door. It doesn’t have to happen every night, but removing the decision of “what’s for dinner?” can be a great way to reduce stress and free up brain space and time.
          • Optimize – If you’re time-poor with kids, it’s time to optimize your activities. Turn screen time into playtime outdoors, and get them to join in on your activities. If your children are old enough, it might be time to start offering pocket money for chores and meal preparation. This strategy helped me stay fit as a single parent. By getting out and active with my son, I doubled my return on investment by staying fit and enhancing my relationship.
          • Eliminate – We’re only human. Sometimes, we simply have too much on our plate due to our high expectations. Take a look through your daily tasks and work out what can be removed.

          Now, go through this exercise yourself. What potential spare time do you have to work with? If the answer is none, you might want to keep reading.

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          Exercise Selection: It’s Not All About the Burn

          No equipment? No problem.

          So, we’re finally tracking the elements that matter. It’s time to start leveraging exercise to accelerate our weight loss journey. Alongside focusing on individual exercises that help with weight loss at home or caloric expenditure, we’re going to focus on another method to help keep you consistent and accountable for the long term: interest.

          Interest has been linked as one of the key motivating factors to maintain consistency towards a goal. By choosing a form of exercise that your body and mind can enjoy, your chances of weight loss success are far greater.

          Here’re the 5 best exercises for weight loss at home:

          1. Low-Intensity Interval Training (LIIT)

          Maybe the body isn’t what it used to be, and intense forms of training simply just aren’t safe anymore. Also considering the body’s response to stress, it might be in our very best interest to choose low-intensity activities that we can repeat daily.

          Mobility and movement flows have risen in popularity in recent years. This form of exercise focuses on restoring range of motion (ROM), improving stability, and returning people to activity. Some exercise options include:

          • Quadruped Rocks
          • Frog Stretch
          • Hip Prying
          • Scapula Push-ups
          • Hindu push-ups

          Below is a 10minute warm-up flow that shows you how to put all of this together:

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          2. Yoga

          Yoga is another perfect example of LIIT methodology that can be advanced as your ability improves. Focusing on mobility, stability, and range of movement using only your body weight, it’s a perfect entry-level activity for those that may have lost their way on their weight loss journey.

          3. Calisthenics

          Strength training at home can be difficult when you lack equipment or experience. An obvious path to building strength at home is calisthenics. Starting with just the following basic bodyweight movements:

          You can begin your journey with no equipment and build to quite an advanced level. Here are five movements you can look to master over time are:

          Depending on your ability, choose movements that allow you to progress safely over time. There is also gymnastics-based training you can move towards if your body is ready for a more demanding form of training.

          4. Aerobic Exercise

          Another underrepresented form of exercise, aerobic exercise is often overlooked for its sexier counterparts like strength and HIIT. With the prevalence of obesity nearly tripling between 1975 and 2016 and the major cause in adults being cardiovascular disease, it makes sense to focus on activities that improve cardiovascular or heart health.

          Another benefit is that it can be as simple as getting your steps in, going for a swim, or going for an easy ride or run. Phil Maffetone pioneered the Maximum Aerobic Function (MAF) Method that almost anyone can adopt regardless of fitness level and experience.[1]

          Here’s a 30-minute session of aerobic exercises you can try:

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          5. High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

          High-intensity interval training is a great way to elevate the heart rate and get the endorphins flowing. It can also be super time-effective, giving you a great bang for your buck. Try sequencing some of the movements and exercises above together with minimal rest to keep your heart rate elevated. Be sure to select movements that suit your current level of fitness and ability.

          Here’s a HIIT workout that takes little time and is suited for any level:

          Chipper 60

          Complete all reps of every exercise for time. Exercises can be done in any order and repetitions to complete the workout.

          If you can’t do jump squats, regress to normal squats, and don’t be afraid to change the leg raises to a 60-second plank if you need to. Finish up with some light stretching or foam rolling.

          What Also Matters: Sleep, Stress, and Stimulants

          Sleep, stress, and stimulants, also known as the hamster wheel of death. Tracking these elements gives us the power to finally stop relying on our ever-depleted stores of discipline and motivation to get the job done. It will also highlight the self-destructive habits that sabotage your weight loss journey.

          Simply put, stress affects stimulants, sleep affects stress, and the vicious cycle continues.

          Sleep

          Are you getting enough sleep? It’s well documented that sleep is an important factor in weight loss and recovery.

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          “Restricted sleep and poor sleep quality may lead to metabolic disorders, weight gain, and an increased risk of obesity and other chronic health conditions.”[2]

          Start this journey by tracking how much sleep you’re getting. Certain wearables can also track the amount of movement and time you spend awake or in lighter sleep cycles. Getting enough time in REM or deep sleep is critical for weight loss.

          Stress

          We don’t need to be fancy. A simple daily measurement out of ten indicates how much stress we think we are under. Using this number, we can observe the effects that sleep, stimulants, and exercise have on our stress levels, allowing us to deploy the right strategy for our weight loss goals.

          Stimulants

          Stimulants can be classified as anything we put in our mouths. Tracking calories, alcohol, and caffeine is a great way to observe, predict, and avoid trends or at-risk periods of overeating and destructive behaviors. Tracking this is aligned with how well we sleep, and our stress response gives us enough information to start forming better weight loss habits.

          Work to identify the trigger, observe the response, and then look to adjust.

          Final Thoughts

          Whether you’re fighting fit or returning to activity, the best exercises for weight loss at home are the ones that you can do day in day out that you enjoy. Think of exercise for weight loss as we do for compound interest. Consistently and regularly making deposits may not show immediately, but with time, they give you the momentum you need to reach your goals.

          Featured photo credit: Olivia Bauso via unsplash.com

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          Reference

          [1] PhilMaffetone: Maximum Aerobic Function
          [2] SleepFoundation.org: Why is sleep so important to weight loss?

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