Try a Morning Stretch Routine for Long-Term Health
You probably know that exercise has many health benefits but so does stretching. Getting into this gentle habit every morning can make you feel better in the short- and long-term.
Even if you’re not an active person, it’s a practice almost anyone can do at home to help counteract the negative effects of a sedentary lifestyle. Whether you want to increase your mobility or maintain it as you age, stretching can help.
In this post, we’ll discuss how stretching can improve your health, and we’ll guide you through a quick morning routine to get started.
Benefits of Morning Stretching
Making morning stretches a part of your daily routine has various benefits. One of the most obvious ones is how it improves your physical performance. If you’re someone who works out in the morning, dynamic stretches (involving movement) can warm up your muscles so they can better avoid injury.
Stretching can also help you relax before heading into your day. When we’re stressed, we tend to hold tension in our neck, shoulders and back. A morning stretch routine can help loosen these areas, and when combined with a breathing practice, it can be even more effective.
Stretching has many long-term advantages too. It can improve circulation, range of motion and flexibility. Combined, these benefits can help you:
- Recover faster
- Reduce soreness
- Make daily physical tasks easier
- Put off the physical effects of aging, such as reduced movement and stiffness
Here are some of the best reasons to introduce a morning stretch routine into your daily life:
1. Wake Up Your Body
For many of us, the morning consists of a loud alarm buzzing and then a mess of rushed activities until we finally make it out the door to be at work on time.
Adding a stretching practice to your routine helps you wake up relaxed—perhaps making you more likely to carry that calm throughout the day. As opposed to being jolted awake by an intense workout, small movements allow you to gently wake up physically and mentally.
Sometimes we wake up with muscle stiffness, either from sleeping the wrong way or simply because we’ve been lying down for eight hours. Stretching can help relieve this while also making you feel more alert.
If your mornings are hectic, you may hate the idea of adding more time to your routine. However, you can do many stretches while you’re still in bed. Instead of hitting snooze, use your extra minutes for some gentle in-bed stretching.
Need something to motivate you in the mornings? Read inspiration for getting out of bed.
2. Improve Circulation
When your muscles are tight, especially chronically, it can restrict blood flow. This lack of circulation can lead to a variety of issues. For example, a tight neck or jaw that restricts blood flow to the head can cause headaches.
Stretching your muscles and connective tissues can help you regain circulation. In a2013 study, acute heart attack patients were asked to do five stretches for 30 seconds each with 30 second rests between. After repeating the routine twice, researchers found that the patients’ circulation was significantly improved.
Stretching improves circulation by making your muscles relax, allowing more oxygen and nutrients to flow through.
If you have an injury or choose tough workouts, improved circulation from stretching has additional benefits. It can provide relief from sore, tense muscles and speed up recovery time.
Since sitting or standing for long periods cancause poor circulation, those working desk jobs can boost blood flow by stretching before leaving home in the morning.
3. Increase and Maintain Mobility
Tight muscles can make it difficult to walk or even sit without pain. Stretching regularly can help improve your flexibility, which can increase your mobility. It also trains your joints to move their full range, which can give your body more freedom. This can help whether you're an athlete or just wanting to make regular physical tasks—such as walking up the stairs—easier.
Stretching is important for everyone, but it becomes critical for maintaining movement as you age.
As you get older, your muscles get stiffer, and without stretching, they will shorten. Shortened muscles can have difficulty contracting, making damage or accidents more likely.
In a 2016 study, 60 elderly volunteers committed to 10 weeks of lower body stretching. After, researchers found that they could stand on one leg for significantly longer. The improvement in balance led the authors to conclude that it could also reduce the number of falls elderly people experience.
4. Prevent Injury and Pain
While static stretching (without movement) isn’t usually a good idea before a workout, dynamic stretching (like walking lunges) may help prevent injury. Dynamic stretching warms up the muscles, allowing them to take the impact of exercise.
A2018 study on basketball players found that dynamic stretching helped their body transition from movements that caused eccentric to concentric activation (causing muscles to lengthen and shorten). It may also increase performance. One study found that dynamic stretching improved runners' sprint times.
Even if you’re not an athlete, stretching can help you alleviate chronic pain. In many cases, back, neck and shoulder pain is caused by poor posture, which can be improved by stretching.
In one study, 88 students were asked to complete an eight-week program to improve posture. The exercises, including stretching, were done for 20 minutes, three times per week. The program significantly reduced the pain levels in the volunteers’ shoulders, middle back and lower back.
5. Relieve Stress and Tension
We tend to think of stress as a mental concern, but we also experience it physically. An aching neck or sore back can be the result of stress or anxiety. Stretching can help both aspects by relieving tension and making you feel calmer.
While extending your muscles can help loosen them, adding a breathing practice can help you de-stress mentally. You don’t need to be a yogi to do this. You can simply breathe in for four seconds and then exhale for four seconds. While doing your morning stretch routine, your aim is to focus solely on your breath (but it’s okay if your mind wanders). This technique is calledmindful stretching.
A daily stretching practice can have a positive impact on your mood.
One Spanish study asked volunteers to do a 10-minute stretching routine for three months. Researchers found that it reduced levels of anxiety and exhaustion while improving mental health.
Start a Morning Stretch Routine
Stretching can help improve and maintain your physical and mental health. Whether you’re a fitness fanatic or someone just rushing out the door, making time to extend your muscles each morning can have short and long-term benefits.
If your doctor has given you the okay to start a new program, try this short morning stretch routine to ease into your day. You can tailor the stretches according to where you hold the most tension. You should feel a pull during each stretch, but it shouldn’t be painful.
1. Lying overhead stretch
Begin lying in bed on your back. Stretch both arms towards the headboard. Hold for four deep breaths.
2. Lying hamstring stretch
Still in bed, straighten one leg upwards, using your hands around your thigh area to push it towards you. Hold for four breaths. Repeat with the other leg.
3. Lying knee hug
Lying down, bring both knees to your chest, using your hands to clasp them. Hold for four deep breaths.
4. Seated shoulder stretch
Sitting on the edge of the bed, extend your left hand to your right shoulder, using your right hand to hold your left elbow. Hold for four breaths and repeat on the other arm.
5. Seated overhead tricep stretch
Still seated on the edge of the bed, raise your right arm overhead and bend it so that you place your right hand behind your head and between your shoulders shoulders. Raise your left arm and gently push your right elbow downwards. Hold for four breaths and repeat on the other arm.
6. Leg swings
Now that you’ve completed your static stretches, try a couple of dynamic stretches to prepare for the physical activity in your day. Stand on one leg (hold a wall for support) and gently swing the other leg outwards to the side. Do 10 swings and repeat on the other side.
7. Lunge with arm stretch
This dynamic stretch uses your arms and legs. Lunge forward on your right knee, making sure to keep your knee over your ankle. Then, reach your left arm toward the right side. Bring yourself back into a standing position and repeat four more times. Repeat on the other leg.
Give Your Morning Routine a Makeover
With this morning stretch habit, you can give your morning routine a makeover for a healthier and happier start to your day.