After a restorative night’s sleep, the sun begins peaking through the slats on your mini-blinds. Your eyes slowly open, and you take a deeper breath, raising your resting heart rate by a few pulses. You push yourself up to a seated position and lean against the pillows as your arms then extend upward. You stretch your arms and yawn, taking in an even deeper breath; that rush of oxygenation to your lungs and muscles makes you feel awake and alive. This type of stretching and deep breathing seems to happen as a response to a restful sleep when you have the time to slowly make your way out of bed and appreciate the new morning. Think about the difference it makes as a start to your day, taking just those few moments to stretch, loosening your muscles, relieving stiffness, and intentionally bringing air more deeply in and out of your lungs.
Benefits Of Stretching In The Morning
As we age, we deal with more stiffness, aches, and pains. But the less you move, the worse those symptoms can become. Stretching first thing in the morning can relieve tension or pain that’s caused by sleeping through the night, something we never considered in our younger years. Sleeping can be painful! Stretching also helps increase your blood flow, supplying the muscle with fresh blood and oxygen, carrying away the muscle’s waste, and moving it back through the kidneys.
When you watch a baby or young child, they seem to stretch instinctively in the morning, but we can easily lose that instinct as we get busy and our lives become more complicated. Stretching can truly breathe life back into your body and change the course of your day for the better.
What are the best stretches to start your day?
You can do many stretches, but sometimes with so many choices, it’s difficult to know where to begin if you haven’t been stretching as part of your morning routine. Here are 5 of my favorite stretches in the morning that will put you on a path to a new, healthy habit. As these become more familiar and more instinctive, you can increase your morning stretching from 5 to 10 minutes and add new stretches to the routine.
Here are my top 5 morning stretches:
- Standing Chest Stretch
- Knees-To-Chest Stretch
- Forward Fold Stretch
- Standing Oblique Stretch
- Standing Quad Stretch
Bonus Stretch: Start first thing in the morning before getting out of bed with a morning shoulder stretch!
Standing Chest Stretch
The standing chest or pec stretch is designed to stretch the pectoral muscles in the chest, allowing the chest to open up. This stretch also allows the shoulders and upper back to move back into proper postural alignment.
How to do a standing chest stretch:
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart, toes pointing forward, and arms by your sides
- Exhale while slightly lifting your chest up and out while rotating the shoulders (turning them out) and then drawing them together. Your shoulder blades will be pulling your shoulders back.
- While shoulder blades are pulled back, lift your arms and draw them back in an upside-down “V” shape allowing your shoulder blades to draw even more tightly together. Hold this position while inhaling and exhaling several times.
Standing Knees-To-Chest Stretch
The knees-to-chest stretch helps to loosen up the spine, lower back muscles, lats (side core muscles), and your glutes. The benefits of this stretch include improved balance and stability in the legs, strengthening thighs, calves, ankles, and spine, and strengthening ligaments and tendons of the feet. Additional benefits include increased low back flexibility and reduction of low back strain. The standing knees-to-chest stretch is a powerhouse stretch that can also help reduce inflammation and indigestion.
How to do a standing knees-to-chest stretch:
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Be sure to maintain a tight core throughout this stretch.
- Lift your left knee up and toward your chest.
- Grand your left knee and pull it in as close to your torso and chest as you can
- Hold this stretch for 20 to 40 seconds
- Slowly release the left leg and lower to the ground
- Repeat the steps on your right leg
Fold Forward Stretch
This stretch activates your abs, quads, and calves. I find that when my hamstrings are tight, I struggle with this stretch as it also stretches your hip muscles, hamstrings, and lower back. The forward fold stretch also stimulates digestion, which can help get your system moving first thing in the morning.
How to do a fold-forward stretch:
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent, and arms by your sides
- Exhale as you fold forward from the hips and bring your head towards the floor. If your hamstrings or other leg muscles are tight, you may be unable to touch your hands to the floor. Safely perform this stretch while challenging yourself as much as possible.
- Keep your knees straight but with a gentle bend so that you’re not locking out your knees.
- Touch the floor with your fingertips (if you can)
- Hold for 30-60 seconds
Standing Oblique Stretch
The oblique muscles are an important part of your core and involve the muscles that allow us to rotate our torso and bend sideways. Stretching your oblique muscles regularly can also help greatly improve your posture.
How to do a standing oblique stretch:
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart
- Slowly bend your body from your waist to your left side until you feel the stretch in your oblique muscles.
- Exhale during the movement and hold the stretch for 20 to 30 seconds
- Repeat the movement on the right side
Standing Quad Stretch
The standing quad stretch can help elongate muscles, improve joint circulation, increase flexibility, improve range of motion, and reduce stiffness. This stretch can also help improve balance and stability.
How to do a standing quad stretch:
- Stand on your left foot and grab your right shin by bending your leg behind you. If you need added stability, secure yourself by holding the back of a chair or countertop with your left hand.
- Tuck your pelvis in, pull your shin toward your glutes, making sure your knee is pointing to the ground. Be careful not to pull the knee backward or sideways.
- Hold for 30 seconds
- Repeat the movement on the opposite side
Start Your Day Off Right With Stretching
Stretching has many benefits, including increased mobility, stability, balance, circulation, and better digestion. Once you experience the difference it will make in your day; you’ll be happy to leave the pain and stiffness behind with just a small commitment to your health through daily mobility stretching.
5 Steps to the Ultimate Daily Stretching Routine
6 Shoulder Stretches For Comfort And Mobility As You Age