Stretching can loosen the muscles, aid mobility, ease stress, and increase alertness — all of which may be especially helpful in the morning.
Below, we present a selection of stretches that a person might try in the morning, including routines for beginners, seniors, children, and people with back problems.
A stretching routine can aid mobility and help prevent injury. It may also improve alertness. Little research has focused specifically on the benefits of stretching in the morning, but anecdotal evidence suggests that doing so may ease muscle tension, reduce pain, and boost mood.
Yoga, a practice that focuses on stretching, can offer a range of benefits. These include improving flexibility, supporting respiratory and cardiovascular health, easing stress and anxiety, and supporting quality sleep.
The researchers behind an older review, from 2008, found that stretching may specifically help prevent work-related musculoskeletal disorders. Common examples of these issues include carpal tunnel syndrome and a herniated disk. The finding suggests that a stretching routine may help counter the effects of a day spent on the computer.
Below are some basic stretches that help loosen the muscles and wake up the body. A person might follow the routine suggested or pick and choose as they like.
If any stretch causes pain or discomfort, stop immediately. It is also important not to overdo it and to build flexibility gradually.
To perform this stretch and those below, stand on even flooring.
- Standing straight, extend both arms above the head as high as possible.
- Hold the position for as long as is comfortable, while taking deep, slow breaths.
- Repeat as desired.
- Standing up straight, link the hands behind the back.
- Pull the shoulders back as far as possible, then lift the clasped hands upward as far as is comfortable.
- Hold the position for 3–4 deep breaths. Repeat as desired.
- While standing, stretch the left arm straight up.
- Grip the left wrist with the right hand and gently pull the left arm toward the right side, leaning the torso slightly. The left arm should be over the left ear.
- Remember to keep the knees straight and engage in deep, slow breathing. Hold the stretch for several breaths.
- Return to a neutral standing position, and repeat on the right side.
- While standing, extend the left arm across the body toward the right side.
- Hook the right arm around the left elbow, and gently pull the left arm closer to the body.
- Hold the position while taking deep breaths.
- Return to a neutral position when ready, and switch sides, extending the right arm.
- While standing, place the right foot slightly forward and twist the torso to the left as far as is comfortable.
- Hold this position for several deep breaths.
- Repeat on the other side, with the left foot slightly forward.
Back pain is a prevalent issue globally. In the United States, for example, around 31 million people experience lower back pain.
The following exercises and stretches can help ease the pain and strengthen the back:
- While lying flat on the floor, slowly lift one knee toward the chest as far as possible.
- Hold the knee with both hands, and take several deep breaths.
- Repeat with the other leg.
This is similar to the Upward Dog pose in yoga and is also called a back extension.
- Lie face-down, and slowly push the body up with the arms. The arms should be completely straight.
- Hold the position, remembering to breathe deeply, then lower the torso to the floor.
- Repeat a handful of times.
- On all fours, support the weight of the torso by keeping the arms shoulder-width apart.
- Inhale and gaze up while lowering the belly. Lift the tailbone and lower the stomach toward the floor. The back should be curved downward. Breathe deeply.
- Exhale, then lower the chin downward and draw the navel up. The back should round out, tucking in the tailbone. Keep the hips over the knees.
- Repeat a few times.
- Lying down, bend the knees, keeping the feet flat on the floor.
- Slowly rock the knees to one side, then the other. Increase the range, if possible, and keep one foot touching the floor at all times.
- Repeat several times on each side.
- Lying on the back with the knees bent and the feet flat on the floor, inhale and raise the pelvis up as far as possible.
- Exhale, and slowly lower the hips back to the floor.
- Repeat several times.
A person can also try these on the floor, with a yoga mat.
Total or full body stretch
If a person does this in bed, it might be the easiest possible exercise.
- Lying flat, extend the arms above the head, keeping the backs of the shoulders on the mattress.
- Stretch the body completely, from the fingertips, down to the tips of the toes.
- Take 4–5 deep breaths, holding the stretch, then repeat it three times.
- Lying on the back, raise the right knee, with the sole of the right foot on the bed.
- Gently hold the knee with the left hand and pull it to the left side. The right hip will lift off the bed, but keep the shoulders pinned down. Turn the head to the right, and extend the right hand outward.
- Hold the stretch and breathe deeply. When ready, slowly return to the starting position.
- Repeat on the opposite side, starting with the left knee.
- Start from a kneeling position, and raise the arms above the head.
- Slowly move the arms down, stretching forward until the palms and torso are on the floor — or as close as is comfortable.
- Push the hands forward, away from the body as far as is comfortable, while relaxing the shoulders.
- Hold the position for three deep, 4–5 second breaths.
Seated forward stretch
- Sit on the edge of the bed with the legs extended.
- Slowly reach forward and gently grab the ankles or feet.
- Relax the head and neck and arch the spine slowly. It is important not to force this stretch.
- Hold the stretch for a handful of breaths, then ease back to the original position. Repeat several times.
All the stretches in this article are appropriate for children, if they feel comfortable doing them. Below are stretching exercises that kids may particularly enjoy. It is important to rest between each.
- Stand upright. Jump and spread the legs shoulder-width apart. Raise the hands above the head so that the body forms an X.
- Jump back to the starting position.
- Repeat several times, but do not stretch the limbs too far.
- Stand with the legs wide apart and the arms stretched in front of the body.
- Gently move the right hand down to reach the left ankle, then return to the starting position.
- Now switch to the opposite side.
- Repeat this 10 times, five on each side.
- Stand up straight, and stretch the arms straight out in front of the body.
- Slowly, bend the knees and squat down, then straighten back up.
- Repeat this several times, keeping the arms stretched out in front.
- While standing, bend the right knee and grab the foot with the right hand.
- Pull the heel as close to the backside as possible.
- Hold this pose for 20–30 seconds, remembering to keep the back as straight as possible.
- Return to the initial position, and repeat with the other leg.
All the stretches in this article can be suitable and beneficial for older adults, and those below may have particular benefits.
Research indicates that adults over the age of 65 can benefit from regular static stretching as part of an exercise routine. However, stop doing any stretch that causes discomfort or becomes difficult to perform correctly.
- While sitting, straighten the back.
- Stretch the arms in front of the body with the palms facing forward.
- Move the arms to the sides, keeping them stretched away from the body and pressing the shoulder blades together.
- Hold the position for 20 seconds to open up the chest.
- Shake the arms out. Repeat the stretch a couple of times.
- With the arms held in front of the body, press the elbows and palms together.
- Move the palms toward the forehead and slowly drop the chin.
- Hold the position and breathe. Then move the head back up to the starting position.
- Repeat this a couple of times.
This stretch requires a person to feel comfortable standing and bending backward.
- Stand up straight with the hands on the hips. Slowly lean backward, looking up at the ceiling. Be careful not to lose balance.
- Hold this pose for a few seconds, before returning to the starting position.
- Repeat about 10 times.
As always, it is important to stop if any stretch causes discomfort. Only stretch as far as is comfortable.
Morning stretching can be a simple way to maintain or boost flexibility and manage pain. It can also help wake up the body and improve mood.
It is important is to not overstretch or move in a way that causes pain or discomfort. Anyone with concerns about their ability to stretch safely should consult a doctor.