6 basic stretches to improve your heart health

Ten minutes of walking will lead to 15, then 30. As you feel better, you’ll keep going.

That’s the hope of trainers and doctors who urge all of us to just get moving. Even during our busiest days, they say we can find time to lace up the sneakers and take a walk.

The payoff for heart health builds from there. The hard part is getting started.

Listen to music, check out the neighborhood, stroll the riverfront or return phone calls. Stand up, put one foot in front of the other, and see how far those feet will take you.

Now that you’re up and off the couch, the American Heart Association also recommends a few minutes of basic stretches (hold each for 20-30 seconds) on your way out the door:

  • Inner thigh:  Lunge with your head up and a bent knee over the toe. Keep your other leg straight. Switch legs.
  • Calf:  Place both hands against a wall. Put one foot forward (knee bent) and the other leg back, keeping your leg straight. Lean toward the wall until you feel a stretch in the lower part of the back leg.
  • Chest:  Place your fingertips on the back of your head. Push your elbows back while squeezing with your upper back until you feel a stretch in your chest near your underarms.
  • Hamstring:  Prop one foot up on a low step. Stand tall. Keeping your chest high, hips square and tailbone lifted, bend forward from your hips until you feel a stretch in the back of your thigh or knee. Switch legs.
  • Palm touch:  Slightly bend your knees. Touch the floor by bending from the waist, but don’t bounce.
  • Hip Flexor:  Lunge forward with one leg, knee bent. The back leg can stay straight or bent slightly. Push your hips forward until you feel a stretch in front of your back thigh. Switch legs.