Stretching is a beneficial form of exercise; it can help relieve stress and prevent activity-based injuries. Regardless of age, stretching can improve your flexibility, range of motion, balance and circulation, according to gerontology professor LaVona Traywick and county extension agent Katie Cobb. Stretching the hamstring muscles, located at the back of your thigh, can improve the ease by which you perform daily activities such as bending over to pick up a fallen object or tying your shoes. Improving the flexibility of the hamstrings can be done by performing a variety of stretches with an inexpensive resistance band.
Seated Chair Stretch
People who have mobility problems may find it easier to stretch their hamstrings while sitting in a chair. Sit on the front half of a sturdy chair, bend your legs 90 degrees and place your feet flat on the floor. Loop the middle of a resistance band around the ball of your right foot. Wrap the ends of the band around each hand until all the slack in the band has been taken up. Keep your left leg bent and straighten your right leg out in front of your body. Sit erect and pull on the band to make your toes draw back toward you. While keeping tension in the band, slowly bend at your waist and lower your chest toward your right thigh until you feel a good stretch in your right hamstrings. Hold the stretch for five seconds and then return to an upright sitting position. Repeat five times and then switch legs. A variation is to loop the band around both feet to stretch both legs at the same time.
Seated Floor Stretch
This is a variation of the seated chair stretch. Use an exercise mat for comfort. Sit on the mat with your legs bent 45 degrees and feet flat on the mat. Loop the middle of the resistance band around the balls of your feet and wrap the ends of the band around your hands until you start to feel a resistance in the band. While holding the ends of the band, straighten your legs and pull on the band to draw your toes back toward your body. Keep your back as straight as possible, bend at the waist and lower your chest toward your thighs to feel the stretch in your hamstrings. Hold the stretch for 15 seconds, relax and repeat.
Lying Floor Stretch
Start this intermediate hamstring stretch by lying on your back on an exercise mat. Bend your left leg and keep your foot flat on the mat. Extend your right leg up until it is perpendicular with the floor. Loop the middle of a resistance band around the arch of your right foot. Grasp the ends of the band in both hands, and while keeping your right leg as straight as possible, pull on the band to draw your leg closer in toward your upper body. Stop when you feel the stretch in the back of your right leg. Maintain this position and extend your left leg until it is flat on the mat. Hold for 10 seconds, relax and repeat five times. Rest and repeat with your left leg.
With a few subtle adjustments to the lying floor stretch, you can make the stretch more intense. Position your body the same way; lie on your back, loop the band around your right foot, grasp the ends of the band and raise your right leg. Extend your left leg and keep it flat against the floor during the exercise. Instead of holding your right leg straight, slightly bend your right knee and pull on the band to draw your knee in toward your chest and your foot toward your head. While keeping the tension in the band, push your right heel toward the ceiling, straighten your leg, pause and return to the bent-leg position. Repeat the leg pumping movement 10 times and then switch legs.