Seven daily stretches to improve body and mind

Daily stretches have many benefits.

Stretching can increase your flexibility to help prevent injuries and improve mobility. It also increases blood flow to your muscles, which often helps improve back pain and posture.

In addition to improving your physical health, daily stretching is a great tool to help reduce stress and calm the mind.

Here are seven beneficial stretches you can start practicing every day

• Kneeling hip flexor stretch

Benefits: If you have tight hip flexors from sitting too long at work or at home, you will benefit immensely from this stretch. It helps to relieve knee and back pain.

How to: Begin kneeling on one leg and have the other leg out front at a 90-degree angle. Place your hands on your hips and while keeping your back straight, move your hips forward until you feel the stretch. Do this stretch on both sides and hold for 30-45 seconds.

• Knee to chest stretch

Benefits: This is one of the most beneficial stretches because it eases back pain and helps improve range of motion in your hips, knees and back. If you have any mobility limitations, make sure to perform this exercise either on your bed or table.

How to: Lay on the ground or table with both legs straight. Bring one knee into your hands and gently let your arms pull your knee toward your chest. Hold for 20- 30 seconds and relax. Repeat on the other leg.

• 90/90 Stretch

Benefits: Anyone can benefit from this stretch that helps with tight hips and backs. Make sure to keep your back straight as you lean forward.

How to: Sit on the floor and bend one leg in front of your body with your hip rotated out. Position it so that your lower leg and knee are resting on the ground. Your leg should perform a 90-degree angle. Position your other leg beside you with your hip rotated inward and your shin and ankle on the ground.

Bend your knee so that it forms a 90-degree angle. Your back knee should be in line with your hip, and your ankle should be neutral. Try to keep your back straight and resist the urge to bend to one side. Hold this stretch for up to one minute.

• Supine hamstring stretch

Benefits: Tight hamstrings cause bad posture. Bad posture can cause back and shoulder problems. If you have a lot of lower back problems, do this stretch every day.

How to: Lie on the floor or a table on your back with both legs straight out. Grab a towel or a strap and put it around the middle of one foot. Slowly pull on the strap to move your leg toward your chest while keeping your foot parallel to the ceiling. Hold the stretch for 20-30 seconds. Repeat on the other leg.

• Wall calf stretch

Benefits: Anyone who has experienced plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendinitis or tight calves can gain more flexibility and better balance with this stretch.

How to: Find a wall and stand a few inches away. Put the toes of your one foot against the wall, keeping your heel on the ground. Flex your foot and hold about 20-30 seconds. Repeat on the other side.

• Child's pose

Benefits: Not only does this mind and body stretch help with back, thigh and hip tension, but it also helps with blood circulation. This helps to calm your mind and reduce anxiety.

How to: In this pose, kneel and sit on your knees. Lean forward, keeping your butt on your heels and rest your forearms on the floor.

• Cat-cow pose

Benefits: The cat-cow pose can diminish the adverse effects of sitting all day and help relieve lower back pain. It increases flexibility of your neck, shoulders, and spine and improves focus and coordination.

How to: Kneel on the floor and put your hands on the floor in front of you. Keep your hands shoulder-width apart and your knees below your hips. Inhale deeply while curving your lower back and bringing your head up, tilting your pelvis like a "cow." Exhale deeply and bring your abdomen in, arching your spine and bringing your head and pelvis down like a "cat." Repeat several times.

Need help with your exercise routine? A fitness specialist can help you develop a fitness program that works for you.

- Brooke Paulson is a ACE certified physical trainer at Edward-Elmhurst Health & Fitness.