These eight simple moves may improve your foot, ankle and hip mobility, decrease knee and lower-back pain and build lower-leg strength. In addition to benefiting your legs, these stretches lengthen the muscles that help maintain a strong back. Ease into the moves by starting in bed when you wake up. Then get up and use a sturdy piece of furniture for support to complete the circuit. Equipment needed: A sturdy piece of furniture such as a chair or dresser and, if desired, ankle weights.
Before any strenuous physical activity, be sure to talk to your doctor.
Lie on your back; bend knees with feet hip-width apart and palms flat on the bed. Using your gluteal (buttock) muscles, slowly lift hips toward the ceiling.
Curl your spine one vertebra at a time until your shoulders are slightly off the bed. Then slowly lower your hips to the starting position. Exhale as you raise your body; inhale as you lower it.
Perform 5 to 8 times at a comfortable pace.
The benefit: This exercise is designed to stretch your back and strengthen your glutes.
Lie on your back with one knee bent and foot on the bed. Extend the other leg up, holding the back of the thigh or the shin to comfortably draw the leg closer to your chest.
Slowly rotate the raised ankle in one direction 8 times, then rotate in the opposite direction 8 times.
Switch legs and repeat.
The benefit: This move is designed to stretch your lower back and wake up your ankles and feet.
Lie on your back with one knee bent and foot on the bed. Extend the other leg toward the ceiling. Hold the extended leg with both hands behind the thigh, gently pulling it toward your torso and keeping the knee straight. Rest your head on the pillow; do not strain your neck.
Point and flex your ankle joint as you hold the stretch for 10 seconds. Switch legs and repeat.
The benefit: This stretch is designed to increase the flexibility of your hamstrings and lower back.
Sit tall in a chair with your feet hip-width apart, knees bent and feet firmly on the floor. Rest your hands on the sides of the chair. Straighten your right leg, tightening the muscles above the kneecap. Pause briefly, then slowly lower your foot to the starting position.
Do 10 repetitions. Switch legs and repeat.
The benefit: This exercise is designed to strengthen the legs.
Sit tall in a chair with your feet hip-width apart, knees bent and feet firmly on the floor. Rest your hands on the sides of the chair.
A. Lift one foot off the ground. Flex the lifted foot by bringing your toes toward your shin.
B. Point the foot by lowering your toes toward the floor, keeping your heel in the same position.
Do 10 repetitions. Switch feet and repeat.
The benefit: This stretch is designed to improve the mobility and stability of the ankle joints, which are important for balance and movement.
Tip: These two joint actions are critical to ankle health. Instead of making this a separate move, this ankle action stretch can be implemented throughout your exercise routine by pointing and flexing the foot of your working leg while holding the stretches.
Stand on one leg, with the leg and foot in line with your body, and hold the back of a chair for support.
Lift and extend the other leg to the side of your body and make circles (about the size of a dinner plate) with the leg. Your knees should stay slightly bent, and the movement should start from the hip. Keep the circles slow, controlled and symmetrical.
Draw 8 circles in one direction with your leg, then 8 in the opposite direction. Switch legs and repeat.
The benefit: This move is designed to work your hips and gluteal muscles.
Using a sturdy chair for support, stand on one leg and wrap the toe of the opposite leg behind your ankle. Rise on the ball of the working foot as high as you can go, then slowly and smoothly lower the heel back to the floor.
Perform 10 repetitions. Switch legs and repeat.
The benefit: This move uses your body weight to stretch and strengthen the calf muscles.
Hold onto a sturdy chair for support. Cross one leg over the opposite thigh, as if you are sitting with one leg crossed over the other in a chair. Lower your body, pretending to sit. Feel the strength building in your supporting leg and the stretch in the outer hip of the other leg.
Hold for 10 seconds. Switch legs and repeat.
The benefit: This stretch is designed to open up the hip.