Stretch early, stretch often. Stretching, in addition to regular physical activity, may help the body control blood glucose and respond to insulin by improving circulation. Feel better throughout your day by starting off with these 8 simple stretches.
Wake Up Your Body with These Easy Stretches
Start your day on the right side of the bed with these feel-good stretches. These eight simple moves can improve your foot, ankle, and hip mobility, decrease knee and lower-back pain, and build lower-leg strength. In addition to benefiting your legs, these stretches lengthen the muscles that help maintain a strong back. They’ll also get you breathing and can help reduce stress.
Ease into the moves by starting in bed when you wake up. Then get up and use a sturdy piece of furniture for support to complete the circuit.
Equipment needed: A sturdy piece of furniture such as a chair or dresser and, if desired, ankle weights.
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Lie on your back; bend knees with feet hip-width apart and palms flat on the bed. Using your gluteal (buttock) muscles, slowly lift hips toward the ceiling.
Curl your spine one vertebra at a time until your shoulders are slightly off the bed. Then slowly lower your hips to the starting position. Exhale as you raise your body; inhale as you lower it.
Perform 5 to 8 times at a comfortable pace.
The benefit: This exercise stretches your back and strengthens your glutes.
Lower-Back Stretch with Ankle Rotations
Lie on your back with one knee bent and foot on the bed. Extend the other leg up, holding the back of the thigh or the shin to comfortably draw the leg closer to your chest.
Slowly rotate the raised ankle in one direction 8 times, then rotate in the opposite direction 8 times. Switch legs and repeat.
The benefit: This move stretches your lower back and wakes up your ankles and feet.
Lie on your back with one knee bent and foot on the bed. Extend the other leg toward the ceiling. Hold the extended leg with both hands behind the thigh, gently pulling it toward your torso and keeping the knee straight. Rest your head on the pillow; do not strain your neck.
Point and flex your ankle joint as you hold the stretch for 10 seconds. Switch legs and repeat.
The benefit: This stretch increases the flexibility of your hamstrings and lower back.
Seated Knee Extensions
Sit tall in a chair with your feet hip-width apart, knees bent, and feet firmly on the floor. Rest your hands on the sides of the chair. Straighten your right leg, tightening the muscles above the kneecap. Pause briefly, then slowly lower your foot to starting position.
Do 10 repetitions. Switch legs and repeat.
The benefit: This exercise strengthens the legs.
Sit tall in a chair with your feet hip-width apart, knees bent, and feet firmly on the floor. Rest your hands on the sides of the chair.
A. Lift one foot off the ground. Flex the lifted foot by bringing your toes toward your shin.
B. Point the foot by lowering your toes toward the floor, keeping your heel in the same position.
Do 10 repetitions. Switch feet and repeat.
The benefit: This stretch improves the mobility and stability of the ankle joints, which are important for balance and movement.
Tip: These two joint actions are critical to ankle health. Instead of making this a separate move, this ankle action stretch can be implemented throughout your exercise routine by pointing and flexing the foot of your working leg while holding the stretches.
Standing Hip Circles
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Stand on one leg, with the leg and foot in line with your body, and hold the back of a chair for support. Lift and extend the other leg to the side of your body and make circles (about the size of a dinner plate) with the leg.
Your knees should stay slightly bent, and the movement should start from the hip. Keep the circles slow, controlled, and symmetrical.Draw 8 circles in one direction with your leg, then 8 in the opposite direction. Switch legs and repeat.The benefit: Your hips and gluteal muscles will appreciate this stretch.
Standing Calf Raises
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Using a sturdy chair for support, stand on one leg and wrap the toe of the opposite leg behind your ankle. Rise on the ball of the working foot as high as you can go, then slowly and smoothly lower the heel back to the floor.
Perform 10 repetitions. Switch legs and repeat.
The benefit: This move uses your body weight to stretch and strengthen the calf muscles.
Standing Figure 4
Hold on to a sturdy chair for support. Cross one leg over the opposite thigh, as if you are sitting with one leg crossed over the other in a chair. Lower your body, pretending to sit. Feel the strength building in your supporting leg and the stretch in the outer hip of the other leg.
Hold for 10 seconds. Switch legs and repeat.
The benefit: This stretch opens up the hip and is a true feel-good move.
How To Do Stretching Exercises Correctly
Stretching exercises help keep your joints flexible, prevent stiffness, and may help reduce your chance of injury during other activities. Gentle stretching for 5 to 10 minutes also helps your body warm up and get ready for aerobic activities such as walking or swimming, but some people find it easier to stretch after their activity ends (and that is fine, too).
Some activities that count as flexibility exercises include:
Basic (static) stretches
Dynamic stretching (such as high knees or back kicks)
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It is important to make sure you are doing basic stretching exercises correctly. Stretching should feel mild and relaxing. It should never feel uncomfortable or painful.
Follow the pointers below when stretching or doing any flexibility exercises.
Relax as you stretch
Stretch only to the point that you feel mild tension
Hold a steady stretch for 5-15 seconds
For dynamic stretches, keep your movements fluid
Breathe deeply and slowly as you stretch
Keep it comfortable
Ease off the stretch if you feel discomfort
Bounce or bob as you stretch
Focus on tension-creating thoughts
Hold your breath
Strain or push to the point of pain
Benefits of Stretching for Diabetes
Stretching is an essential part of an exercise program for everyone — yet there are some benefits of stretching that specifically relate to diabetes. A study in the Journal of Physiotherapy concludes 20 minutes of stretching may lower blood sugar levels both in people with type 2 diabetes and those at risk of it. In the study, participants did 40 minutes of upper- and lower-body stretching after eating a meal. The results showed that glucose (blood sugar) levels were reduced by an average of 28 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) midway through the stretching session and 24 mg/dL after the full 40 minutes.
Though more research is needed to confirm these glucose-lowering benefits, stretching has other proven health benefits. “We know that diabetes itself can decrease range of motion and flexibility,” explains Guy Hornsby, Jr., PhD, director of the Human Performance Lab and associate professor of human physiology at West Virginia University in Morgantown. “People with type 2 diabetes may not have good flexibility, but simple stretching exercises can help overcome that.”
Stretching can also improve balance and prevent falls. Falls among older adults are a major cause of injury and disability. That makes injury prevention one of the biggest benefits of stretching, says Jane K. Dickinson, RN, PhD, CDE, a diabetes educator and coordinator of the masters of science in diabetes education and management program at the Teachers College of Columbia University in New York City. “If a person with type 2 diabetes falls and gets injured, they may have to stop exercising for a while, and that’s a scenario we don’t want,” Dickinson says.
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