Move Your Hips..and More Stretching Tips
Are you sitting right now? Carol Crawford, a physical therapist at UNC Chapel Hill’s Wellness Center at Meadowmont in Chapel Hill, NC, suggests you get up and stretch.
“We spend so much time sitting,” Crawford said. “The muscles between your pelvis and the front of your leg that bring your legs up are called your hip flexors -- and those muscles can get really tight, especially as we get older. If that area gets tight, it can pull you forward and throw off your entire gait mechanics, essentially how you move when you walk.”
Stretching is not just a way to help avoid injury from exercise, but also about keeping your body movement in healthy alignment to avoid creating problems. “Tight muscles are like rubber bands,” Crawford said. “If, for example, your hip flexors are tight, that’s going to pull you forward which could lead to knee pain, or ankle and back problems.”
After many years of working with clients, Crawford has these words of wisdom to help you stretch safely and get the most out of stretching:
Stretch all major muscles -- pay special attention to hip flexors, muscles around the IT Band – a tendon located on the outside of your thigh between your hip and knee, and hamstrings.
Stretch warm muscle tissue – Don’t jump out of bed and go for a deep stretch. Do a few minutes of warm up such as walking, cycling or jogging to warm up your muscles before you stretch.
Stretch daily – Add stretching to your regular exercise program and do it at the end of the routine.
Don’t bounce when you stretch - Go into the stretch and hold it. Crawford said that bouncing can stretch your muscles too far and too quickly, and can cause muscle strain. Muscles need slow, prolonged stretches to elongate safely.
Hold each stretch for at least 30 seconds– If you hold the stretch for less than 30 seconds, you are not elongating the muscles, which is what you need to get a good and healthy stretch.
Associate Producer, The Fitness Files