There's no need to be super flexible, but it is worth doing just a few minutes of stretching after each walk, when your muscles are the most warm and compliant. That's enough to help maintain your mobility and a healthy range of movement, and it's likely to reduce the chance of injuries or limitations, especially as your walking becomes more varied and vigorous. Here are three simple, stand up stretches you can do any place, after any walk.
Do all of these stretches slowly, never to the point of discomfort; hold each stretch for six to eight slow, deep breaths. Begin each stretch standing up, and feel free to rest one hand on something for balance if necessary. If you have time, go through the cycle twice.
- Calf and hip stretch. Take a giant step forward with your left foot. Bend your left knee (but don't push it beyond your foot) and keep your right heel on the ground and your right leg straight behind you. Keep your abdominal muscles gently contracted so there's no excess arch in your back, and you should feel the stretch in both your right calf and hip. Hold. Then switch legs and repeat.
- Back and hamstring stretch. Stand with your feet together and your knees soft (not straightened). Lean forward from the waist and let your arms and head hang loosely toward the ground. Don't necessarily try to touch your toes -- just let your body hang under its own weight, and let it ease into the stretch with each deep breath. Slowly stand up and repeat.
- Shin and thigh stretch. Grasp your right toes with your left hand, and gently pull your foot up behind you, keeping your right knee pointed toward ground. Your heel does not have to reach your buttocks -- just pull to the point of feeling a gentle stretch in the front of the thigh, hip, and shin. Hold, then switch legs and repeat.