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Preventive Maintenance: Stretches That Can Extend the Length of Your Career

Last month we saw that it's not easy to keep your back in shape while driving. Here are some stretches and exercises to do between trips to help keep your back flexible and relaxed.

Last month we saw that it’s not easy to keep your back in shape while driving. Here are some stretches and exercises to do between trips to help keep your back flexible and relaxed.

Before you start, find a soft carpet or mat on a flat surface. Start off slowly, increasing the repetitions over time.

While lying down

Stretching knee to chest: Bend both knees so your feet are flat on the floor. Lift up one leg and slowly pull that knee to your chest, hold for two seconds, put your leg back down. (10 times/leg)

Extending leg and foot: Start in the same position as the last stretch. Lift one leg until your thigh is perpendicular to the floor. Slowly straighten the leg until you can’t move it any more. Hold for two seconds, then bend your leg again. (10 times/leg) On the last extension, rotate your ankle and point your toe as far as you can.

Stretching using a strap: Start in the same position as the last stretches. Lift one leg off the floor and put a strap (belt or towel) around your foot. Straighten that leg and use the strap to pull your leg up.

When your leg is pointing at the ceiling, your toes will start to point closer to you. Pull until you feel a good stretch (but no pain). Hold for 1-2 minutes. Repeat for the other leg.

Stretching quadriceps muscle: Roll to one side, keeping your bottom leg straight.

Bend the other knee, grab that heel and pull it toward your butt to stretch the muscles on the front of your thigh. Hold for 30 seconds. Roll to your other side and repeat for the other leg.

Running in the air: Lie on your back with arms straight toward the ceiling. Lift your legs-knees bent-until your thighs point at the ceiling. Move your right arm back (so your elbow goes toward your ear) while moving your left arm down (so your arm goes next to your side).

At the same time, straighten your right leg. Then repeat for the other side (like you’re running in the air).

Bending knee on other knee against wall: Lie on your back with your butt a few inches from the wall. Put your left foot on the wall and put the right leg’s ankle on your left knee.

Slowly bend your left knee and slide your left foot down the wall to stretch the muscles of your right leg and butt. Reverse for left leg.

Scissoring legs against wall: Start in the same position as the last exercise. Extend your legs up the wall. Slowly slide your legs apart down the wall. Hold for 1-2 minutes.

Stretching neck: Lie on floor, arms at your side, head turned to one side. (This is an easy one!) Stay in this position for 1 minute.

While on your stomach

Lifting legs and chest: Hold your hands behind your back at your waist; then lift both your chest and legs for two seconds. Repeat 20 times.

Pressing up like a cobra: Keeping your hips on the floor, put your hands beneath your shoulders and do 10 press-ups. (Keep your hips on the floor.) On the 10th press up, exhale and let your back sag as much as you can for 10 seconds.

Stretching like cats and dogs: Get on your hands and knees. Arch your back up and bend your head down (like a Halloween cat), and then drop your back down and bend your head back (like a howling dog, 10 times).

While standing

Touching your toes: (Don’t force yourself – you may strain your back) Stand up straight. Tilt your head forward and slowly bend forward as far as comfortable. Allow your arms to hang loosely. Then, try to touch your toes for about three seconds. Slowly stand up again by rolling your body up. (10 times)

Stepping up: On stairs – stand with your heels hanging over the edge of a step. Allow your heel to lower, letting gravity stretch your calf and hold for 30 seconds. Repeat for other leg.

Walking briskly: A brisk walk loosens muscles and relieves stress. For the best exercise, walk with your elbows bent, step out and swing your arms. If you add five minutes each time you walk, you’ll be up to 45 minutes in just nine days!

Walk before or after your other exercises/stretches, but if you walk before, walk slowly for a few minutes to warm up before really stepping up the pace. If you walk after, then after your walk stretch a little to cool down.

These exercises should help keep your back in shape, but if you must take medication for back pain, read the labels and talk to your doctor first. Every other traveller’s safety depends on you thinking clearly.

– Karen Bowen is a professional health and nutrition consultant and she can be reached by e-mail at

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