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What stretches should I do before exercising?

Before you start exercising, it is very important to stretch your muscles effectively. Proper stretching will increase your flexibility and minimize your chances of pulling a muscle.

By following this simple routine, you can become loose and limber in a few minutes. Perform all stretches slowly with controlled movements for 10-20 seconds, taking slow deep breaths. Do not bounce or stretch to the point of pain:

1. Standing Hip Stretch -- Start from a standing position. Take a full step forward with your left foot. Gently bend left knee to lower hips, keeping right heel on ground and right knee straight. Switch and repeat.

2. Standing Quad Stretch -- While standing, bend your left leg and reach back to grasp your left ankle. Pull your foot toward your buttocks while placing other hand on a bench or chair for support. Switch and repeat.

3. Standing Wall Pushes -- Stand arms-length from a sturdy pole or wall. Place your hands on the wall at shoulder height, bend the elbows, lean in from the ankles, and press your body upright until you feel a slight strain in your legs.

4. Standing Calf Stretch -- While standing, extend one leg in front of you and place the heel on the floor, toes in the air. Keeping the back straight, bend forward at the hips until you feel the stretch of the calves. Switch and repeat.

Repeat this entire sequence when you finish exercising to prevent undue stiffness and soreness later.

A total body warm up period of 5 to 10 minutes is preferred prior to stretching or exercising. A total body warm up can increase your body elasticity by 20%. A better indication to know when you're properly warmed up and ready for stretching and exercising, is when you notice sweat/moisture appearing on your forehead, back of hands, or under the nose. 

There is no specific set of stretches anyone should do before exercise. A good rule of thumb is to perform movements similar to the exercises you will perform without weight, moving through the full range of motion. This is known as dynamic stretching.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.