Work Out While You Wait (In Line)

Work Out While You Wait (In Line)

Try these exercises to bust stress and ease aches while waiting in holiday lines. (Photo by Getty Images)

Sure, you could browse the tabloids for the latest Kardashian news while standing in those long holiday shopping lines — or, you could do your body some actual good.

Why not turn all that time spent in line into an opportunity for wellness? We asked fitness and rehab experts to share some while-you-wait moves to relieve tension, stretch tight muscles, and help your body move and feel better. The following exercises can be done with zero equipment, minimal space and only the slightest risk of embarrassment. Pick one or two based on your trouble spots, or cycle through all five during those marathon shopping trips.

For achy ankles: Single-leg balance
Balance training is one of the single most effective ways to strengthen your ankles, says Ryan Krane, certified corrective exercise specialist and creator of the Get My Ankle Better program. “The single-leg balance reach is a great corrective exercise for strengthening the ankle, the muscles surrounding the knee, the hip, and the lower back,” Krane says. “I’ve even done this when I’m in line at Target and the line is long.”

How to do it: Stand tall with your hands on your hips. Raise your right leg straight in front of you at a moderate pace, as high as it can reach comfortably (or without kicking the person ahead of you in line), and lower the leg down. Complete 10 reps. Do 10 reps to the side, then 10 to the back; switch legs. Watch the video below to see how to do the move with perfect form.

For keeping your cool: Deep breathing exercise
Practicing slow, deep breathing decreases stress and anxiety, increases concentration, and improves mood, says fitness expert Eric Beard, a certified corrective exercise specialist and integrated manual therapist. “Most of us take short, quick breaths, and the muscles that are responsible for breathing, particularly the diaphragm, don’t stretch out all the way,” he says. “Beginning to concentrate on the inhalation will allow that oxygen to get where it should in the body. Focusing on the slow exhale helps to stretch out the diaphragm, which in turn makes it easier to take deep breaths.”

How to do it: Breathe in through your nose for three full seconds, allowing your belly to expand. Hold the breath for four seconds. Exhale slowly through the mouth for six seconds. Repeat 10 times frequently throughout the day.

Related: 20 Mind-Blowing Facts About Gratitude

For tight hips: Hip flexor stretch
Sitting all day can tighten the muscles at the front of your hips. Performing this stretch after a bout of holiday shopping allows you to stretch the muscles when they’re warm from walking around, giving you a more effective stretch.

How to do it: Stand with both feet hip-width apart, one foot staggered slightly behind the other. Straighten your back leg, squeeze your butt, and push your hips forward until you feel a stretch at the front of your hip. “Hold the stretch for anywhere from 10 to 20 seconds, or until the people around you ask what you’re doing,” Beard jokes.

For a stiff neck: Neck stretch
Many people complain of stiffness in the neck and at the base of the skull, Krane says. This simple stretch can relieve tension in that area and may help prevent headaches. Since sitting for long stretches of time can make your neck hurt, this exercise is a must-do after being stuck in holiday traffic.

How to do it: Tuck your right arm at the small of your back. Reach your left hand over your head. Place your fingertips on your skull just above your left ear. Gently pull your head to the left side, stopping and holding when you feel the stretch. Hold for 20 seconds and repeat on the other side.

Related: 5 Exercises That Combat ‘Computer Body’ (Yes, It’s a Thing!)

For troublesome shoulders: External shoulder rotation
Most shoulder pain is the result of a weak or underperforming rotator cuff, Krane says. “Let’s say you’re at Walmart and you want to buy a VCR on a bottom shelf. Your rotator cuff is going to help you bend and twist, pick it up off the bottom shelf and lift it up,” he explains. “It’s a main muscle that’s used in rotating and twisting, and since it’s such a small and underutilized muscle, it’s the first muscle that really starts fatiguing and the one that gets injured and hurt.” Since the rotator cuff is such a small muscle, the following simple shoulder rotation exercise is enough to strengthen it.

How to do it: Raise both arms into a field goal position with your elbows at 90 degrees and your palms facing in front of you. Keeping your upper arm in the same spot, rotate your forearms until your palms face the floor. Slowly return to the starting position. Repeat 10 to 15 times at a slow and controlled tempo.

Watch Krane demonstrate the external shoulder rotation and other quick stretches in the video below.

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