There are many articles dedicated to the importance of stretching before and after your workout. But do you ever stretch your hands after a strenuous activity or a long day at work? Your hands are full of muscles that are susceptible to the same injuries as the other parts of your body if not properly looked after. So why don’t we make it a more common practice to stretch our hands daily?
Whether it’s at work or at play, our hands are in constant motion. The result — especially as we age – can be soreness, stiffness and aching joints due to constant or over usage. Stretching them before certain activities can help them stay healthy and strong, and may even help mitigate the effects of repetitive motions such as typing. Show your hands some daily love with the following stretching exercises:
Gimme Five (Exercises for Healthier Hands)!
The Hand Flex
The hand flex lengthens and stretches the ligaments in your fingers. To do it, hold your hands in an upright position, and open it, keeping your fingers spread apart. Gently draw your hands into loose fists, with your thumbs on the outside (don’t squeeze as it’s important to keep the fist loose.) Hold for a few seconds, then open with fingers apart as before. Hold your hands open for a few seconds, then repeat the loose fist. Do 5 to 10 of these open/fist sets.
Thumb circles help loosen tendons in the thumbs to keep them flexible. To perform the exercise, place your thumbs in the “thumbs up” position, and gently rotate them in a circular motion for a few seconds. Change the direction of the circles for a few more seconds. Repeat 3 or 4 times and rest.
This simple exercise may not seem like much, but it’s actually stretching the tendons in the fingers to keep them supple. Holding your hands upright with fingers spread comfortably apart, touch your thumbs to your pinky fingers, move on to the ring finger, and repeat until you’ve touched all four fingers. Repeat a few times and rest.
The Pinch Strengthener
As its name suggests, the pinch strengthener helps build strength in the muscles and tendons of the hand. For this exercise, you’ll need some putty or a stress ball. Hold the putty or the ball and pinch between your fingertips and thumb. Hold for up to one minute. Repeat a dozen times on each hand a few times each week.
Wrist Flexes and Rotations
Flexing and rotating your wrists not only stretches tendons, it also helps restore range of motion in the joint. Sit in a chair with arms and rest your forearms and wrists on the arms of the chair, letting your hands (palm down) hang over the edge. Bend your wrists back towards your arms and then lower your hands back down. Repeat 5 to 10 times.
Next, rotate your wrists so that your palms face up. Hold for a moment and then rotate again so your palms face down. Repeat 5 to 10 times.
Why is Stretching Important?
Stretching improves the flow of blood to your hands, which warms the muscles and ligaments and provides them with the oxygen and nutrients they need to keep moving. It also helps reduce the possibility of injury by gradually elongating muscles.
According to the Mayo Clinic, hand exercises can help ease the stiffness and aches associated with arthritis, improving joint mobility and range of motion. By doing these hand exercises daily, you’ll ease stiffness and retain a range of motion to enable you to perform everyday tasks with less discomfort.
There’s no need to overdo stretching, however. Performing the exercises listed above before taking on a task that involves repetitive movement of the fingers or wrists, such as typing, is sufficient. You can also make these a daily part of a general exercise routine to help keep your hands as healthy and strong as possible so that they’ll continue to serve you throughout your life!