I’ve noticed lately that not only can I no longer get into a lotus pose yoga position—sitting cross-legged with feet resting on my upper thighs—I feel pain and tightness when I simply sit on the floor with my legs crossed. Clearly, at 42, I’m not as flexibile as I used to be.
That could be the direct result of my years of running, according to Health magazine which in its October issue names the best and worst exercises for flexibility. Yoga, pilates, and dance classes are the best workouts for making you more limber. Running and cycling are the worst since they tighten or shorten certain muscles.
After workout stretching, however, can help reverse and lengthen those tightened quads, hamstrings, and glutes that occur from repetitive movements of running. Or it can extend the hips, tight knees, and hunched back left from cycling.
While evidence is lacking to support stretching to reduce the risk of injury during workouts, those after-workout stretches are key to improving your range of motion, flexibility, and athletic performance.
Here’s our guide to basic stretches you can try after warming up your muscles for five minutes through some form of steady activity or after your usual workout. You can also try the five-minute video above.
If you go for yoga to increase your flexibility, avoid these five common yoga mistakes.
A good rule of thumb is to stretch at least every other day since studies suggest that muscles elongated through stretching start to pull back and tighten again within a day or two.