Our legs are the foundation of our posture, physical fitness, and our daily lives. Just like any other parts of our bodies, you have to use it or lose it. Unfortunately, choosing not to is one of the reasons why a staggering 11.1% of US adults have severe mobility issues.
Luckily, it's easy to incorporate all of the care you need into your daily routine. Let's talk about some leg stretches to help you to maintain healthy legs throughout your life!
Static vs Active Stretching
First, let's understand the difference between static stretching and active stretching. Static stretching is like a stationary exercise, similar to a plank or an L-sit. This is when you hold a position for a period of time.
Conversely, active stretching is more akin to sit-ups or push-ups, where you perform repetitions or "reps."
These are great stretches for warmups, as they will not temporarily reduce performance levels (strength and speed) like static stretching will. However, they are more dangerous if done incorrectly or if you lack the necessary mobility.
1. Toe Touches
The first that comes to mind is going to be touching your toes. However, there are so many levels to this that it will never stop challenging you.
For beginners, simply straighten your knees and try to reach down and touch your toes. Hold for 10 to 30 seconds and repeat this a couple of times a day.
As this becomes easier, make it more challenging by crossing one foot over the other and holding the position. This is a great way to isolate each hamstring and get a deeper stretch.
You can do active versions of this stretch, but don't "bounce" or stretch too far. Remain static as a beginner before trying active versions. Over time, you can hold for longer, start in a sitting position, or place one foot on an elevated surface to deepen the stretch.
2. Hip Opener
This is an excellent stretch for improving hip mobility, as well as many connective muscles in the thighs, both of which we need for most everyday activities.
To perform this stretch, start by sitting with your legs in front of you. Bend both at 90 degrees with your knees facing the same direction, both laying on the ground.
Sit in one direction for 90 seconds, keeping your heels on the ground. From there, swivel your bent legs across, pointing your knees in the opposite direction. Hold for another 90 seconds.
3. Quad Stretch
The best way to stretch your quadriceps is to bring your foot behind you and slowly pull it backward. Hold onto something for greater stability, and try to lean forward slowly (if possible). Hold this for 30 seconds on each side.
As you become more advanced with this stretch, you may want to try leaning forward and placing a hand on the floor while holding your leg behind you. We only recommend this as a static stretch, as this is a dangerous active stretch that can quickly throw you off balance.
4. Hamstring/Calf/Ankle Stretch
Most hamstring stretches can stretch your calves and ankles if you want them to. These are all connected, so tilt your feet backward when performing hamstring stretches to get a better stretch on your lower legs.
To get a deeper stretch on your calves and ankles, place one foot in front of you and place your hands on your hips. Slightly bend the back leg and straighten out the front one, tilting your foot as far back as you can.
Hinge at the waist, straighten your back, and start leaning forward slowly. You should feel a deep stretch in the tendons and ligaments behind your knee. Hold this for 30 seconds on either side, taking deep breaths the whole way.
You can also do this as an active stretch, but make sure you are stable and that your movements are slight, slow, and controlled for safety.
It's important that you don't neglect your calves and ankles, as they provide most of your lower body support. For safety's sake, do some ankle rolls before intense leg workouts. This can really help improve ankle mobility and promote safety for such a sensitive joint.
How to Promote Healthy Legs
Beyond stretching, there are some steps you can take to improve the health of your legs. Keep in mind that healthy legs are a central aspect of quality of life, especially as we age. Not only that, but our legs affect the rest of our body.
For example, tight hamstrings can lead to "duck feet," which can cause hip issues, which can cause spinal issues, which can affect everything in your upper body. Poor leg mobility can also lead to lower back discomfort, which can cause postural issues, which can affect everything.
Therefore, it's important to promote healthy legs both in and out of your workouts. If you have an active job, one of the best things you can do is invest in quality work socks.
The right pair of active socks can help improve blood flow in your legs, relieve pain and swelling, and so much more. Combined with the proper stretching routine, it will help you promote healthy legs for as long as possible.
Take Care of Your Legs
Now that you know some tips on promoting healthy legs through stretching and footwear, use these tips today. Find a way to incorporate stretching into your daily routine for the best results, and keep your legs in good shape for the rest of your life.
From there, stay up to date with our latest wellness tips, and check out our eco-friendly bamboo compression socks to help with your health goals!