Stretches for Exercise and Flexibility


Walking is a great way to get physical activity. But stretching is also a very important part of any activity program. Be sure to warm up for several minutes to get your muscles warm and then stretch slowly for at least 5 minutes before you begin.

You can start with these basic stretches, but be sure to only stretch as far as is comfortable for your body. If you have certain medical problems that prevent you from some activities, check with your health care professional to be sure that you are in the right condition to perform these stretches.

  • Chest Stretch: Place your fingertips lightly on the back of your head. Push your elbows back while squeezing with your upper back until you feel a stretch in your chest near your underarms. Hold for 20–30 seconds. Another option is to stand in a corner with one hand or elbow on each wall. Your feet should be 1½–2 feet away from the corner in a split stance. Keeping your back straight and tummy pulled in, lean into the wall until you feel a stretch in your chest near your underarms. Hold for 20–30 seconds. (Keep feet staggered, one behind the other.)
  • Hamstring Stretch: Prop one foot up on a low, secure bench or stair step. Stand tall. Keeping your chest high, hips square and tailbone lifted, bend forward from your hips. Feel a stretch in the back of your thigh or knee. Hold 20–30 seconds on each leg.
  • Hip Flexor Stretch: Lunge forward with one leg, knee bent. The back leg can stay straight or bent slightly. Push your hips forward until you feel a stretch in front of your back thigh near the groin. Keep your torso upright and your front knee behind your toes. Hold 20–30 seconds on each leg.
  • Shoulder Rolls: Lift your shoulders up toward your ears, then down and backwards in a circular motion. Repeat 5–10 times. Perform with both shoulders at the same time or alternate right and left.
  • Toe Touch: Place your right leg on a chair or railing, making a 90-degree angle with the other leg. Keep your left leg straight and lean forward, touching the toes of your right leg. Don’t bounce. Switch legs and do the same thing. Repeat the entire exercise 1–2 times.