How to Start a Morning Stretch Routine
Nothing feels better in the morning than sitting up in bed and stretching your arms toward the ceiling—except for an entire morning stretch routine.
Though a couple of morning stretches are almost instinctual, adding more targeted mobility stretches into the mix can help improve how your body feels all day long. A morning stretch routine may include 10 or fewer stretches that target different muscle groups in your body.
A stretch routine can warm up stiff muscles and get your body ready for all sorts of movement during your waking hours. Best of all, it requires no equipment and no gym membership to help you see benefits to your muscles. You can even perform many of these morning stretches in bed.
Benefits of Stretching in the Morning
Though mornings can be hectic, finding 10-15 minutes to run through a few stretches can help you enjoy better health.
Stretching could help you:
- Get your muscles ready for the day. As you sleep, lactic acid and other fluid gather around your muscles. Stretching can get that fluid back into place, helping you have easier movements later.
- “Recalibrate” your nerves. The nerves around your muscles send signals to your brain to prevent you from hyperextending (over-stretching), which can cause injury. A morning stretch routine helps your body understand its range of motion.
- Extend your range of motion. Speaking of range of motion, routine stretching can improve yours. Joints with better range of motion tend to be less painful and less susceptible to injury.
- Improve your flexibility and prevent injuries. Stretching helps lengthen your muscles and improve their flexibility. A long, loose muscle is less like to suffer an injury than a tight, short muscle.
- Ease stress. rush don’t get off to a good start. A quiet stretching routine, perhaps even to music that relaxes you, gives you time to calm your mind and think about how your body feels before a busy day.
- Relieve muscle pain. If you wake up with muscle pain, stretching may help relieve it. Overnight, your muscles may get tight. A nice, slow stretch can release the muscle and help relieve pain.
- Better posture. Again, stretching can lengthen muscles. This makes it easier for you to sit and stand with a straight back.
- Increase blood flow. Stretching also sends blood straight to your muscles. Better blood flow helps muscles heal and grow, especially if you had a strenuous workout the day before.
Types of Morning Stretches
You can choose out of literally hundreds of stretches for morning stiffness, depending on your needs. For instance, if you reach over your head a lot at work, you should probably stretch your upper back and shoulders. If you sit at a desk, you should do stretches for back pain and neck tension to improve your posture as you sit.
Most morning stretches are going to be “static stretches.” These stretches involve pulling a muscle group out to its furthest point then holding it there for 15-30 seconds. These mobility stretches are good muscle lengtheners and can release any morning stiffness.
You might also choose to do some dynamic stretches. In these stretches, you gradually move your body to the edge of its range of motion through gentle swinging. These might help you if your muscles are not warmed up and need help getting ready to stretch.
If you have stretching equipment like a foam roller, you might also take part in passive stretching. During these stretches, an object (like the foam roller) or person holds your muscle in their stretch. These types of stretches are best for muscle spasms or muscle soreness due to a workout.
A combination of stretches can help you get your body ready for the day. For the best stretches, wait until your heart rate is up a little and your muscles are warmer before stretching. This may mean you should stretch after you have walked the dog or gone up and down the stairs a few times.
Stretches to Target Problem Areas
You can customize your morning stretch routine to target the areas of your body that tend to be stiff, sore or painful.
Stretches for Back Pain
A nice upward stretch is a natural way to start out your stretching routine. Sit on the floor with your legs crossed then reach your hands up toward the ceiling. Focus on lifting up every vertebrae in your spine and lengthening your neck as you look up at your hands. Hold the stretch for 10-15 seconds. You can also reach up and to the left or right to help stretch your sides.
To stretch out your lower back, like flat on your back on the floor. Put your arms straight out to your sides so you make a cross. Bend your knees and put your feet flat on the floor. Slowly let your knees fall to one side while keep your shoulders and upper back flat on the floor. You should feel a gentle pull in your lower back as you twist. You can push this stretch further back pushing your knees down toward the floor with your hand. Hold for 10-15 seconds, then slowly twist your knees over to the other side to repeat the exercise.
Using an inversion table daily, whether in the morning or the evening, can also help stretch your lower back.
Stretches for Neck Pain
To stretch out your neck, first slowly and gently roll it in circles stretching it as far out as you can as your roll. Be sure to keep your shoulders relaxed.
Next, tilt your head to the left side as if you are trying to touch your ear to your shoulder. Keep your shoulder down. You should feel a stretch in the side of your neck. You can extend this stretch by putting your left hand on top of your head and gently pulling downward. Hold for 10 seconds, then repeat on the right side.
Stretches for Shoulder Pain
Get your shoulders warmed up by rolling them forward for a few circles, then backwards for a few circles. Scrunch them up to your ears, then push them back down as far as you can.
Stretches for Knee Pain
The key to stretching out stiff knees is to loosen up the muscles in the thigh—the hamstring and quadriceps.
To stretch your quads, hold onto the back of a chair with your right hand for balance. Bend your left knee, bringing your foot up to your butt. Grab your foot with your left hand and pull it higher until you can feel the stretch in the front of your leg. Hold for 10-15 seconds, then switch legs.
To stretch out your hamstrings, lie down on the floor on your back. Lift your left leg straight up into the air, keeping your leg as straight as possible. Put your hands behind your knee and pull your leg forward while keeping it as straight as possible. You can also roll your ankle to stretch it out at the same time. Hold for 10-15 seconds then switch legs.
Stretches for Hip Pain
Both inner and outer hips can get tight during the day, so it is important to target both in your morning routine.
For your outer hip, stand next to your bed. Bend your left knee, turning your leg sidewise so it is parallel to the ground (as if you were going to put your left ankle above your right knee). Lay your leg on your bed, keeping your hips square to the bed. You can put your hands on your bed to help balance yourself. Slowly lean forward until you feel the stretch on the outside of your left hip. Hold for 10-15 seconds, then repeat on the right side.
A nice low lunge can stretch out your inner hip while challenging your leg muscles. For this lunge, put your left foot forward and bend at the knee. Point your right toes so your foot is flat on the floor. Now lunge forward, putting your weight on your left foot. Keep your torso upright so that you feel a stretch in the front of your left hip (you can put a chair by your side to hold onto if you have trouble keeping your balance). For an extra stretch, use your hands to push your hips forward further. Hold for 10-15 seconds, then repeat on the right side.
Start Your Day Right With Morning Stretches
A great morning stretch routine can prepare you physically—and mentally—for a new day whether you sit at a desk, lift heavy boxes or drive a car for hours. By taking a few minutes out of your morning to stretch out those stiff muscles, you’ll feel better all day long.