10 morning stretches to help kick-start your day

Senior Physiotherapist at Bupa UK
14 August 2018

Getting yourself up and moving in the morning isn’t always easy. Some days, you bounce out of bed ready to tackle the day ahead. While others, you might wake up feeling sluggish, aching and full of tension.

We often underestimate the importance of regular stretching. Or think that it’s only for people who are flexible, do yoga or play regular sport. But some studies suggest that, along with other forms of regular exercise, stretching could help you to relax, increase your flexibility, reduce lower back pain, and help to manage some other health conditions.

Image of girl stretching her arms in the air

So start your day right by taking just a few minutes each morning to stretch your major muscle groups. The routine below will take you through 10 simple stretches. They begin lying in your bed, and finish with your feet planted firmly on the floor – so you’re ready to take on the day ahead.

Hold each stretch for 15-20 seconds and repeat each one two to three times, especially if your muscles and joints feel tight.

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 lifting your tummy off the bed too. Remember to relax your neck and shoulders. Hold the stretch for 15-20 seconds and when you’re ready, gently lower back down.

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 bending both knees at the same time.

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 repeat on the opposite side.

Illusstration of a spinal twist stretch

Sitting exercises

Once you start to feel more awake, gently move to sit on the edge of your bed and move on to your 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 forward at shoulder level. You should feel the stretch between your shoulder blades.

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 arm to help. Only stretch as far as feels comfortable. Hold for 15-20 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 15-20 seconds and repeat on the other side.

Illustration of shoulder stretches

Standing exercises

Hopefully by now you’re beginning to feel more awake and your eyelids are slowly starting to open. 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. Hold for 10-15 seconds and repeat on the other 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. 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 10-15 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 10-15 seconds and repeat on your opposite leg.

Illustration of a calf stretch

Remember to stretch safely

It’s important to listen to your body each day and take these stretches at your own pace.. Don’t be disheartened if you’re not very flexible at first. With regular practice your body should become more relaxed and each day you’ll be able to reach that little bit further.

But only take yourself to a comfortable stretch without any pain. If you notice any sharp or shooting pain, ease off completely.

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 want to take your stretching routine up a notch, why not try our 15-minute morning yoga routine? Or check out our top tips on how to become a morning person.

Ashley Oliver
Senior Physiotherapist at Bupa UK

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