Exercises to Improve Your Range of Motion

Improve your range of motion with simple body movements

For many of us, our choice of exercise is greatly influenced by our goals, what is easily accessible and maybe even what our exercise buddies opt for.

The most common choices are walking, swimming, gym training, aerobics, yoga, Pilates or anything else in vogue. And while we give our best to the routine, essentials such as a warm up, cool down, lower back strengthening and range of motion exercises are some components that often get overlooked.

Range of motion is the amount of movement possible when moving a joint from starting position to ending position within the natural range. The better your range of motion, the better you are able to perform day-to-day activities. A limited range leads to stiffness and pain, and even forms of arthritis in cases of extended periods of inactivity.

Range of motion exercises are important to help preserve current joint movement and prevent decrease in flexibility.

General guidelines:

  1. Perform each exercise slowly, without jerks and through the full range of motion.
  2. Avoid these exercises if you have recently had an injury.
  3. Range of motion exercises are not stretching exercises, and so the emphasis should be on moving through your pain-free range.
  4. Those suffering from arthritis or any other disease that limits or restricts movement should perform these or any other exercise only after prior consent from their physician, preferably under the guidance of a trained specialist.

For head and neckFor head and neck

  • Head tilt: Gently tilt your head to your right ‘attempting’ to touch your ear to your shoulder. Avoid lifting the opposite shoulder. Bring your head back to neutral position. Now try on the other side. Repeat each side.
  • Chin to chest: Attempt to touch your chin to your chest. Next, lift your head up and look towards the ceiling. In this position make sure your mouth is closed. Repeat.
  • Half neck rolls: Your starting position for this exercise is with your head turned to your right. From this position gently drop your head down and make a half circle to your left. Reverse and repeat each side.

For armsFor arms

  • Shoulder rolls: Sit or stand upright making sure your back is straight and arms are by your side. Without moving your neck, slowly roll your shoulders forward and then backward. Repeat 10 times each side.
  • Arm flexion and extension: Sit or stand upright and clasp your palms together. While holding this position, extend your elbows as much as you can. Hold that position to a count of 4. Slowly bring your hands towards your chest. Repeat 10 times.

For back

  • for-back-350x453Forward flexion: Stand upright with your shoulders pulled back and your knees soft. Place both hands close to the centre of your thighs. Pull your naval in pretending like you were trying press into your spine. Gently bend forward till your upper body is almost parallel to the floor. Return to upright position. Repeat 10 times. For those with tight hamstrings (back of the thigh muscle) or weak back muscles, leaning forward may be a challenge. In that case, lean as much as comfortable or perform the movement sitting on a chair.
  • Standing hyperextension: Stand upright with your feet shoulder length apart. Place both your hands on your lower back. Slowly arch backwards as far as you can without experiencing any pain or discomfort in your lower back. Ensure that you are not pushing your pelvis forward. Hold the position to a count of 4. Return to upright position. Repeat 10 times.

For legsFor legs

  • Butterfly: Sit on the floor with your back upright and the soles of your feet together. Hold your ankles or your feet, whichever feels comfortable. Gently lift your knees as high as you can. Slowly press them down towards the floor. Hold to a count of 4. Repeat 10 times.
  • Leg extension: Sit comfortably in a chair with your back upright. Bend the right knee; bring the heel of the foot as close to the bottom of the chair as you can. Straighten the knee all the way out. Hold to a count of 4. Repeat 10 times.
  • Ankle rotations: Sit comfortably in a chair with your back upright. Lift one foot off the floor. Perform an ankle rotation by drawing circles in the air. Repeat 10 times clockwise, then anticlockwise. Repeat on the other ankle.

This was first published in the September 2012 issue of Complete Wellbeing.

Venu Hirani
Venu Hirani is a Mumbai-based nutritionist and fitness consultant who specialises in weight management, antenatal and postnatal fitness. She is also the proprietor of Bodyworks: Weight Management Specialist


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