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An important aspect of your exercise routine, stretching muscles safely can increase flexibility, reduce risk of injury, and provide pain relief associated with exercise. As most aerobic and strength training programs naturally cause muscles to contract and flex, it’s important to balance the workout with lengthening, or stretching, muscles afterward.

Regular stretching after a workout provides various benefits including increased flexibility and better range of motion of your joints. Stretching also increases circulation, sending blood flow to your muscles. Improved posture is also a benefit of stretching, as is stress relief. Finally, stretching maintains the full range of motion through the joints. Coordination and balance help keep you mobile and less prone to injury from falls, especially as you age.

To get started on a moderately difficult routine, you’ll Need: floor mat or rug, comfortable clothes, tennis shoes.

To begin, incline your head forward, roll it from left to right, then right from left. Be careful how far you turn your head. Breathe deeply as you do so. Next, put your arm on your chest and grab the forearm with the opposite arm. Pull the arm until you feel your shoulder being stretched. Push the arm you are stretching the opposite way in order to contract the muscle if you feel your chest is stretching instead of your shoulder.

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