Four Morning Stretches to Add to Your Routine

Contrary to popular opinion, stretching is not an activity reserved just for runners or other athletes. In fact, stretching has benefits that include improving posture and focus for both seniors looking to keep in shape and younger folks.

Stretching can also help you avoid sustaining injuries, and provide essential nutrients to your muscles. Whether you are trying to increase your flexibility or simply want to lead a healthier and energized life, taking a few minutes to do some morning stretches can greatly improve your mood and health.

The following stretches are basic stretches you can do in the comfort of your own home, without expensive equipment. However, you may decide to advance your stretching techniques using weights or elastic bands to intensify the stretch if the stretches become too easy. Regardless of your regular activity level, these four, morning stretches are important additions to any routine.

Calf Stretch

Stretches that focus on the calf muscles are ideal if you have foot or ankle issues. Though, stretching your calves can also help heal and protect your knees and reduce tightness and instability while you walk. Many adults suffer from tight calves due to excessive walking or lack of movement.

The best way to approach a calf stretch is to face a wall with both knees bent slightly, and place your hands flat against it. Then, to complete a basic calf stretch, you should:

  1. With your arms extended and your hands against the wall, step forward with your right leg and bend your right knee. Continue bending your knee until you feel a little stretch in your left calf. Your heels should remain on the ground.
  2. Hold this position for at least 10 seconds. Then, you may straighten your right knee and return to a standing position. Feel free to rest here, between knee-bends, if you feel tired or need a break.
  3. Step forward with your left leg, keeping the palms of your hands flat on the wall, and bend your left knee. Bending your left knee stretches your right calf. Be sure to pay attention to the feeling of the stretch to ensure you are not hurting your muscles.
  4. Hold this position for at least 10 seconds. Again, you may rest here before continuing.
  5. Repeat steps one to four. Beginners should only stretch their calves three to five times, but you may repeat the steps as many times as you would like.

Remember that some tension in your legs is expected, but you should never feel sharp or stabbing pain while in this stretch. If you do, lessen the bend and adjust your position as necessary. A good way to prevent over-stretching your calves is to always move slowly, abstaining from jerky movements that may tear or damage your muscles. A successful calf stretch will make you feel energized and ready for the day.

Shoulder Stretch

Shoulder stretches are great for improving your blood flow, and can even help alleviate back and neck pain. According to the Mayo Clinic, stretching your shoulders regularly may contribute to increased shoulder flexibility and injury prevention in the shoulders. There are two main types of shoulder stretches: back shoulder and front shoulder stretches. Each type requires a different stretching motion. For instance, a back shoulder stretch involves you extending the arm opposite the shoulder you wish to stretch across your chest. Hold your arm in this position for 10 seconds or more, depending on the intensity of the stretch you want. Then, switch sides. You should alternate your back shoulder stretches at least three times. To perform an effective back shoulder stretch, you should not try to pull your arms across your body with significant force. Instead, simply press the crease of your arms against your chest gently, and allow the muscles in your shoulder to stretch naturally.

Forward shoulder stretches require you to use your shoulders directly. To perform this stretch, bend both of your arms and squeeze your shoulder blades together. This stretch should cause your chest to bulge, but your head should not fall backwards. Rather, your head and neck should remain tall to keep your spine aligned.

Standing Side Stretch

Various styles of this type of stretch are utilized that stretch and work your spine and leg muscles. You may use both arms for each side-stretch, or you may choose to lean with only one arm, leaving the other arm to rest by your side. Either method is fine, but you should choose the stretching method that suits your needs. Often, using a single arm increases your balance during this stretch.

In a standing side stretch, you should begin by standing tall with your legs and feet together. Then, you should reach one or both of your hands up, toward the ceiling, and slowly bend your neck, spine and hips until your body forms a curved shape. Depending on your flexibility, you may need to restrict the stretch so that your sides do not cramp. Because the standing side stretch moves your spine, it promotes good posture and release tension in your torso. This stretch should be done for each side three to five times every morning for the best results.

Butterfly Stretch

To stretch your upper legs, the seated butterfly stretch is perfect. To begin, sit on the floor with the soles of your feet touching, making sure your back and head are straight. In doing so, your knees should be a few inches from the ground, and your legs should form the shape of butterfly wings. Next, constrict your stomach muscles and lean forward slowly. As you bend forward, press your elbows on the inside of your thighs and keep your back straight. When you feel tension in your thighs, stop bending. Hold this position for 15 to 30 seconds before returning to the initial sitting position. Relax, and then repeat this stretch three or four times. For a deeper stretch, you may lean forward farther, or hold your ankles to maintain the stretch for a longer period. However, you should reduce the stretch if you feel more tension in your inner thighs than is comfortable. The butterfly stretch is a great morning stretch, because it loosens the inner thigh muscles that contribute to your balance. Additionally, the muscles addressed in this stretch are often neglected in regular workouts.

Note: To prevent injuries or stress in your back, you should bend forward from your hips.

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