Starting With Some Easy Exercises - Five-minute routines

Five-minute routines can be devised that give a person a wide-awake start to the day or help fill in the waiting period just before Aunt Sally arrives for lunch; they can utilize the desk in the study as a prop, or be performed propless in a standing, sitting, or prone position. A four- or five- or six-minute routine can be performed in an odd moment during a busy workday— at home, at the office—wherever the time and privacy are available.

Five-minute routines may look like warm-up exercises, but they are simpler. They stretch muscles and tendons without preparing the body to spring into the high gear of strenuous activity. They bring major muscle groups into action, but in a relaxed way, thereby inducing a general feeling of relaxation. By calling on different parts of the body for gentle exertion, short routines may warm the body, but they should not work up a heavy sweat.

In brief, instituting a short, standardized routine lays the groundwork for the more formal exercise in a total fitness program that will follow. Once that program starts, five-minute routines can still be part of your day, testimony to the fact that exercise has indeed become part of your lifestyle.

“Quick-time” Wake-up and Relaxer Routines

The “quick-time” routines are designed for use in the morning and evening. The morning set stretches the muscles that may have become cramped during sleep, placing major emphasis on the legs, hips, and balance. The evening set is intended to help the body to unwind gently and prepare for sleep.

The Wake-up Routine

The morning routine awakens the body and readies it for the day's mental and physical challenges through seven separate exercises—or several of the seven, according to choice.

1. Side stretch: Lying flat on your back with arms stretched out above the head, slide the right knee up and at the same time extend the left arm as far as possible. The whole left side of the body should be stretched. Reverse, using the left knee and the right arm. Repeat eight to ten times with both sides.

2. Heel haul: Sitting up, stretch the legs out in front of the body. Leaning forward, grasp the heels, or the legs as close as possible to the heels, and pull the torso toward the knees. Bend the knees slightly if necessary. The back should be rounded, the toes pointed up and, if you are bending your knees, slightly to the side. Let go and sit up, straightening the spine, then repeat, grasping the heels and pulling forward again. Repeat eight to ten times.

3. Knee bounce: Sitting up straight, spread your legs and place the soles of the feet together. They need not fit flat against each other. Now gently bounce the knees toward the floor 16 times. Lower the torso over the still-joined feet, then straighten. Repeat five to ten times.

4. Sky reach: Sit on the floor with your feet apart as far as they will go. Reach for the sky with first the right arm, then the left. You should feel the pull on the muscles of the back and sides down to your hips. Repeat 16 times on each side.

5. Forward reach: In the seated, legs-spread position, slowly lower the chest toward the floor. At the same time place the hands on the floor directly in front of you and push them out ahead of the lowering upper body. Try to achieve a good stretch. In that position, bounce the torso very gently eight to ten times.

6. Torso bend: From the same beginning position on the floor, bend the torso gently to the right, at the same time reaching over the head with the left arm. The right arm moves toward the left knee. Gently straighten and bend eight to ten times. Reverse side and repeat.

7. Knee tug: Lying on your back with your toes pointing up, pull the left knee up toward the chest. Hold that position, gently tugging at the knee with both hands four times in a bouncing motion. Grasping your leg at the ankle or calf, pull it out straight so that your foot is over your head, keeping the other leg straight. Gently pull for eight counts. Next grasp the ankle of the upward-stretched leg and bend it gently out to the side. Hold for eight counts. Repeat with the other leg.

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