Five simple ways to boost your flexibility
Our Fitness Editor, Hollie Grant, shares her practical posture-supporting tips
1) Purchase a resistance band: 'They come in various ‘strengths’ (I would go with medium) and are really cost effective (around £2-£3). They are like a large rubber band and help to facilitate stretches, particularly ones where you would normally struggle to reach your toes/ankle, etc. There are so many stretch ideas online using them but my favourite is a supine hamstring stretch. Lie down on your back and take your feet up into the band, holding the ends in your hands and try to straighten your legs up to the ceiling without rounding your back and hunching up. Imagine your back as a plank of wood and your legs at a 90 degree angle to your body.'
2) Roll downs: 'Whenever you get a spare moment (and a free wall) and especially first thing in the morning and last thing at night, try to add a roll down into your day. Stand against a wall with your feet hip distance apart and a few inches away from the wall but your bum and back touching the wall. With soft knees start to peel your head, neck, then spine away from the wall one vertebrae at a time until you are as low as you can manage. Hold and breathe here for 20 seconds before re-stacking the spine back up one vertebrae at a time to your start position. Repeat.'
3) Look up: 'We spend so much of our day looking down at phones, laptops, kindles and this has a really pronounced effect on the upper portion of your spine (thoracic and cervical spine). Over time the muscles in the back of the neck responsible for lifting your head back up get lazy and long. The effect is that even when we don't need to look down it becomes our natural setting as our flexibility is reduced. We can easily spend our whole day looking at the floor when we walk and miss looking around at how beautiful the world can be! Over time this can cause headaches and migraines, and it can be quite difficult to reverse if left for too long. Try to walk around with your head held high, limit the time you spend on your phone/iPad and try to take your neck through its full range of movement every day (flexion, extension, lateral flex ion and rotation).'
4) Stretch smartly: 'For many years it was thought that stretching before we exercise as well as after was really important. We now know that stretching before a workout can actually be detrimental to your body. Stretching cools down and relaxes muscles and actually what we want to do is warm up our muscles before using them. Instead of stretching pre-workout try to do a low level warm up such as jogging, cycling or dynamic stretches (which are movement based like squats, lunges etc) and save your static stretches for after your workout. If you're planning on spending some time doing just stretching alone (ie: not after a workout) it is most effective when your muscles are warm so try to prepare the body with 10 minutes low level cardiovascular work such as jogging or cycling.'
5) Use a foam roller: 'Used for myofascial release, foam rollers act as a free masseur! You roll your body across the roller and it will encourage the muscles it connects with to relax. It is best to ‘look’ for the sore spots. If you roll over a part of the muscle that feels uncomfortable you can hold and ‘breathe’ into it until the pain reduces. Please remember however that you must not roll over joints, only muscles.'
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Learn more in the June issue of Psychologies, out 29th April.