I walk for 45 minutes about three times a week. Are there flexibility and mobility exercises I should do before and after my walks?
You should do a combination of both dynamic mobility stretches (which I discussed in a previous column) and static stretches.
Static stretches are best done after any type of exercise, including walking. Hold each static stretch for a minimum of 30 seconds. The intensity of a stretch should feel roughly like a four out of 10. Never stretch so far that you experience pain. Here are some key moves.
Seated figure-four stretch: While sitting, place your right ankle on top of your left knee. Push down gently on your right knee until you feel a stretch in your bum. Switch sides and repeat.
Side quad stretch: Lie on your right side. Grab your left ankle and pull it back toward your bum. If the position is too difficult, wrap a towel around your ankle and hold the ends of the towel with your hand. As you become more flexible, aim to move your knee back so it is in line with your hip. Switch sides and repeat.
Hamstring stretch: Lie on your back. Grab the upper thigh of your right leg, straighten the leg and pull it up toward your chest. It is more important to keep the right leg straight than to bring it to the chest. Switch legs and repeat.
If one side of your body is noticeably less flexible, spend more time stretching it. Stretch the tight side first, then the looser side. Finish by stretching the tight side once more. Your flexible side will not necessarily be consistent from stretch to stretch. For example, you may need to stretch your right side twice when doing the figure four stretch, but your left side twice when doing the side quad stretch.
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