10 morning stretches to help you start your day

Emma Mitchell
Physiotherapist at Bupa UK
14 April 2023
Next review due April 2026

Getting moving in the morning isn’t always easy. Some days you might wake up aching and feeling full of tension. Did you know that regular stretching can help to increase flexibility and reduce back pain? To get started, why not try the 10 simple stretches routine below. They begin in bed, and finish with your feet on the floor to help you feel ready for the day ahead.

person opening curtains and stretching standing near the window

Morning stretches in bed

1. Cobra stretch

Lie on your stomach and place your hands flat beneath your shoulders. Tuck your elbows in by your sides and gently raise your head and chest, keeping your hips and groin on the bed. If it feels comfortable, you can go a little deeper by looking up and closing your teeth together. Remember to relax your neck and shoulders. Hold the stretch for 10 seconds and when you’re ready, gently lower back down. Repeat this stretch 8 to 10 times.

Illustration of a cobra stretch

2. Knees-to-chest

Lying flat on your back, bring one knee to your chest and hold it in position with your arms or hands. You should feel a nice stretch in your lower back. If it feels comfortable, you can also do this stretch by bringing both knees at the same time. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds.

Illustration of a knee to chest stretch

3. Spinal twist

Lying on your back, raise one of your knees, and gently roll it over to the opposite side. Make sure both of your shoulders stay in contact with the bed at all times. If it feels comfortable, stretch one arm out to the side, keeping it in line with your shoulders, and slowly turn your head to face your outstretched arm. You should feel the stretch on the sides of your upper body and your lower back. Breathe deeply and hold for 15 to 20 seconds. Repeat on the opposite side.

Illusstration of a spinal twist stretch

Sitting stretches

Once you start to feel more awake, gently move to sit on the edge of your bed and try the next set of sitting stretches.

4. Upper back stretch

Sit on the edge of your bed, with your feet flat on the floor. Interlock your fingers and reach forward, bending from your middle back. Stretch with your hands up at shoulder level. You should feel the stretch between your shoulder blades. Hold this stretch for 10 seconds.

Illustration of an upper back stretch

5. Neck stretch

Relax your shoulders and gently move your left ear towards your left shoulder, using your left hand on your head to help, gently. Only stretch as far as feels comfortable. Hold for 10 seconds and slowly repeat on the other side.

Illustration of a neck stretch

6. Shoulder stretch

Relaxing your shoulder blades back and down, reach one arm across your body and gently use your other arm to deepen the stretch. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat on the other side.

Illustration of shoulder stretches

Standing stretches

Hopefully by now you’re feeling more awake. When you’re ready, stand up and complete your final stretches.

7. Side stretch

Stand with your feet hip-width apart and clasp your hands above your head. Gently lean your body to one side, feeling a deep stretch along the side of your body. Pause and then return to standing straight. Repeat 8 to 10 times on each side.

Illustration of a side stretch

8. Standing quad stretch

Stand up straight and hold onto the wall or a chair if you need to. Keep your feet hip-width apart. Reach back and grab your left foot with your left hand. Keep your thighs lined up next to each other and your left leg in line with your hip. Feel the stretch in your left thigh and hips and hold for 30 seconds. Repeat with your right leg.

Illustration of quad stretch

9. Hamstring stretch

Stand upright and gently bend one knee as if you’re going into a sitting position. Place the opposite leg outright, pointing your toes towards the ceiling. Bend forward from your hips to feel a nice stretch along the back of your outstretched leg. Hold for 30 seconds and then repeat with your other leg.

Illustration of a hamstring stretch

10. Calf stretch

Placing your hands on a wall for support, step back on one leg and gently push your heel towards the ground, feeling a nice stretch along the back of your calf. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat on your opposite leg.

Illustration of a calf stretch

Remember to stretch safely

It’s important to start slowly and perform these stretches at your own pace. Don’t be disheartened if you’re not very flexible at first. With regular practise your flexibility should improve.

Only stretch as far as comfortable without any pain. If you notice any sharp or shooting pain, stop immediately. If you have an injury, speak to your doctor or physiotherapist first so they can recommend a stretching routine that’s tailored to you.

If you have some extra time in the morning and enjoy these stretches, why not try our 12 minute morning yoga routine?

Are you interested in learning more about your health? Discover more about our range of health assessments.

Emma Mitchell
Emma Mitchell
Physiotherapist at Bupa UK



Lucy Kapoutsos, Health Content Editor at Bupa UK

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