The Holiday Season is upon us, and while that means family gatherings, good food and great memories, it also means travel. A lot of it.
It might surprise some, but the solution to stiff joints, sleepless nights and that general “funk” you feel during travel could be found in simple stretching exercises.
Just a few minutes of relatively easy physical activity can put you in a better mood, enhance flexibility and reverse the effects of prolonged sitting, waiting and standing around in cars, on planes and at airport terminals.
The following exercises are a great way to increase circulation to the muscles of your legs and core, and to maintain some semblance of an exercise program while you're on the road or in the air.
Note: If you have an injury, chronic pain, or other health conditions it is always best to consult with a Physical Therapist before starting new exercises.
1. Seated crunch twists.
Gently pull your abdominal muscles in toward your spine. Put your hands behind your head. Exhale as you bring opposite elbow to knee. Sit tall between sides. Complete 10 crunch twists on each side.
2. Water bottle-resisted hip adduction.
Place a hard plastic or metal water bottle between your legs. Gently engage your pelvic floor muscles and then squeeze your legs together, pressing against the water bottle. Hold for 5-10 seconds, then release completely. Repeat 10 times.
3. Arm-resisted hip abduction.
Lean forward and wrap your arms around your legs. Clasp your hands together. Keep your hands clasped together as you push your knees outward, pressing into your arms. Hold for 5-10 seconds, then release completely. Repeat 10 times.
4. Seated heart circles.
This one feels great and is so good for your spine. Place your hands on your knees and circle your ribcage to the left 5 times, and then to the right 5 times. Think of using your heart to draw a circle on the seat beneath you.
5. Leg stretch.
While seated, keep your back straight and slowly reach down to touch your toes. This helps loosen up your lower back after endless hours on the road. If you’re fortunate enough to travel first class, you can probably do this stretch while traveling.
6. Stretch to the stars.
This one is exactly what it sounds like. With your arms extended above your head, lock your hands together and push up, up and away.
7. Rubber ball squeeze.
In the frenzy to ensure we’re properly stretched out, the hands and forearms are sometimes neglected. Also called the “stress ball exercise,” this one is about as simple as it gets: take a rubber ball (a tennis ball also works well) and squeeze it for a pre-determined number of reps and intervals – for example, 3 sets of 15 squeezes.
8. Hip stretch.
A chair is all you need – well, a fair amount of flexibility helps, too. While seated, place your right ankle on your left knee. Slowly bend forward until you notice slight (not uncomfortable) tension in your hips. Reverse the process for a complete, effective hip stretch.
With a Physical Therapist’s advice, you can modify these exercises to address your exact pain or injury issues. Make your free appointment with iAM Physical Therapy today to discover which stretches are best for you, and ensure that pain and muscle fatigue don’t get in the way of your holiday plans.