The summer road trip is one of those all-American traditions. Load up the car, fill the tank with gas, and hit the open road towards the beach, lake, or mountains. But road trips aren’t all iced coffees and playlists: As you rack up the miles, your body is going to get tighter and tighter. “When you sit for an extended period of time, your muscles and joints are in a static resting state, which can cause them to become stiff,” says Franco Calabrese, a physical therapist with React Physical Therapy in Chicago.
Instead of just sitting there, feeling uncomfortable, why not sneak in a simple workout routine? Whether you’re sitting in the passenger seat on the highway or pulled over for a pit stop, these moves from Calabrese will help loosen you up and re-energize you for the next leg of your trip.
IN THE CAR
These three moves prove you don’t need a lot of room to stretch your muscles. Just be sure to do them when it’s someone else’s turn at the wheel!
Neck Stretch. While sitting, lower your chin to your chest and let your head hang heavy for 10 seconds. To increase the stretch, place the palm of your hand on the top of your head and gently push down. Next, stretch the side of your neck by bringing your right ear to your right shoulder (make sure you avoid shrugging), and hold for 10 seconds. To increase the stretch, place the palm of your right hand on the left side of your head and gently push down. Repeat on the opposite side.
Chest Stretch. While sitting, cross your arms over your chest (right arm above left) and give yourself a squeeze (like you’re hugging yourself). Then relax your arms and drive your shoulders back, squeezing them together to cause your chest to expand. Be sure not to overextend your lower back when you do this (engaging your abdominals can help). Repeat this series 10 times, then switch to place your left arm on top of your right and do another 10 reps.
Groin Stretch. While sitting, cross your right leg over your left, bringing your right foot to your left knee. Gently press on your right knee to increase the stretch, then release. Repeat 10 times, then do with opposite leg.
AT A REST STOP
In addition to grabbing a drink refill and hitting the bathroom, stand outside your car and do these three quick moves.
Low Back Stretch. From a standing position, bend at the waist and try to touch your toes. Let gravity be your friend and let your arms hang for 10 seconds. Return to a standing position, squeeze your glutes and bend backwards as far as you comfortably can. Repeat sequence 10 to 15 times.
Quad/Hip Flexor Stretch. Use the car or something to support your upper body during this move. From a standing position, bend your right knee and grab your right ankle behind you with your right hand. Pull at the ankle to bring your heel towards your butt. Try to stand tall and squeeze the glute on your left side for extra support. Hold for 30 seconds, then switch legs.
Calf Stretch. Face the side of your car and place both arms on it while bending your body forward at a 45-degree angle to the ground. Bend your right knee and drive your left heel towards the ground (keep leaning forward until you feel your left calf stretching). Hold for 10 seconds and do the same move on the other side. Repeat five times on each leg, alternating sides.
This article is not intended to substitute for informed medical advice. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or condition. Always check with your doctor before changing your diet, altering your sleep habits, taking supplements, or starting a new fitness routine.