5 stretches to help increase your flexibility

No matter what your level of physical fitness, or preferred exercise, stretching should be an essential part of that routine. Stretching helps you keep your muscles flexible and develop strength. 

With most of us spending more time at home due to COVID-19 and social distancing, that might mean more time sitting down, when muscles may become tight. That may put them at risk for becoming weak or unable to extend all the way, which in turn, may cause joint pain, muscle strain or damage. By practicing these gentle exercises, it may help you feel more limber with less tension. It may also help prevent future injury or even the chance of falls.

With that in mind, here are five stretches you can do from your own home to help you keep those muscles limber and increase your flexibility. 

(With a chair)

1. Seated figure 4: You should feel this one in the top of your leg. 

  • Sit up straight in a chair and cross one leg onto the other, resting your ankle on the opposite knee to make a “figure 4.” 
  • Gently press your knee down. 
  • With your other hand, grab your heel and lift up. 
  • Keep your shoulders back, continuing to sit up straight. 
  • Hold for 10-15 seconds and then rest. 
  • Do this two or three times then alternate legs.

2. Hamstring stretch: You’ll feel this stretch in the back of your front leg.

  • Place hands on the front seat of a chair, with one leg stretched out in front of the other. 
  • Your feet should be flat on the ground and pointed straight ahead. 
  • Keep your back straight with a small bend in the knees. 
  • Press your hips back and hold for 10-15 seconds, then rest. 
  • Do this two or three times then alternate legs. 

3. Elbow point-and-lean: You’ll feel this on the opposite side lateral. 

  • Sit up straight in a chair, with your feet flat and pointing straight ahead. 
  • Place your hands behind your head, elbows out to the side, while squeezing your shoulder blades together. 
  • Lean your elbow towards one hip. 
  • Squeeze your shoulder blades together as you lean. Avoid leaning forward. Keep your body as straight as possible. 
  • Hold for 10-15 seconds and rest. 
  • Do this two or three times then alternate sides. 

(Without chair)

4. Hip flexor: You can put your arms out for balance for this one, while keeping your back straight. 

  • Bring a foot forward like a standing lunge. 
  • Bend front knee as far as is comfortable. 
  • Keep your front foot flat, with your back heel up and both feet facing forward. 
  • Press your hips forward, bringing your front knee towards the toe of your shoe. Your front foot should always stay flat. 
  • Hold for 10-15 seconds, then rest. 
  • Do this two or three times then alternate legs.

5. Behind-the-back stretch: Be sure to keep your shoulders away from your ears.

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and in a comfortable stance. 
  • Clasp hands together behind your back and lift your arms up toward the ceiling until you feel a good stretch. 
  • Stand up straight. 
  • Hold for 10-15 seconds, then rest.
  • Do this two or three times. 

If you’re looking to build on your workout routine, select UnitedHealthcare Medicare plans offer Renew Active™, the gold standard in Medicare fitness programs for body and mind. As part of the program, individuals have access to Fitbit PremiumTM features at no additional cost, including thousands of video workouts and guided programs to do right in the comfort of your own home. 

Talk with your doctor about healthy ways to incorporate fitness into your routine. For individuals recovering from an injury, consider seeking advice from a physical therapist who may identify areas requiring special focus.

Plans are insured through UnitedHealthcare Insurance Company or one of its affiliated companies. For Medicare Advantage and Prescription Drug Plans: A Medicare Advantage organization with a Medicare contract and a Medicare-approved Part D sponsor. Enrollment in these plans depends on the plan’s contract renewal with Medicare.

Benefits and features vary by plan/area. Limitations and exclusions apply.

Participation in the Renew Active® program is voluntary. Consult your doctor prior to beginning an exercise program or making changes to your lifestyle or health care routine. Renew Active includes standard fitness membership and other offerings. Fitness membership equipment, classes, personalized fitness plans, caregiver access and events may vary by location. Certain services, discounts, classes events, and online fitness offerings are provided by affiliates of UnitedHealthcare Insurance Company or other third parties not affiliated with UnitedHealthcare. Participation in these third-party services are subject to your acceptance of their respective terms and policies. UnitedHealthcare is not responsible for the services or information provided by third parties. The information provided through these services is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for the advice of a doctor. The Renew Active program varies by plan/area.