What’s first on your agenda when you get out of bed each morning? If you said, “exercise,” you’re on the right track for warming up stiff muscles, getting blood flowing, perfect for energizing your day right from the start.
Since so many of us spend an inordinate amount of time sitting most of the day, starting the day with physical activity makes sense. After sleeping through the night, it’s a good idea, shortly after rising, to do gentle stretching, helping reduce tightness in your hips and legs or achiness in your lower back. Making these moves can be a big boost for relieving pain while boosting flexibility.
Below are 8 of the best morning moves to make helping start your day:
1. Eye of the needle stretch: Relieves discomfort, decreases tightness, and increases hip mobility.
How to do: Lie on your back, bend your knees and feet flat on the floor. Hug your left knee into your chest. Place your left ankle onto the right thigh. Lift your right foot up and then thread your left hand through your legs with hands meeting on the backside of your right thigh. Use your hands to draw your right thigh toward your chest while exhaling and keeping both feet flexed. Repeat on the other side.
2. Chest and shoulder stretch: Increases flexibility and range of motion in the chest and provides pain-free movement of the shoulders to help improve upper body posture.
How to do: Stand up straight or sit on a surface so that your legs are at a 90-degree angle. Place hands together behind your back with both arms extended behind you. Stretch your chest and shoulder by lifting your hands to the ceiling. Then, bend forward at the hips with your head pointed toward your feet with your clasped hands reaching toward the ceiling. Return to the starting position and repeat.
3. Inner thigh stretch: Improves flexibility in the quadriceps and hip flexors; relieves tension in the lower back and hips.
How to do: Sit up straight on the ground with knees bent so that the soles of your feet touch one another. Use your hands to grasp your feet. Using your elbows, slowly push down on your knees to deepen the stretch.
4. Standing side bend: Warms up and preps the serratus muscles (a muscle around your ribcage).
How to do: Place feet hip-width apart. Raise your left hand up and over your head and keep your right hand by your side. Engage your abdominals (imagine pulling your belly button in toward your spine) and bend at the waist toward your right side, lowering your right arm toward the floor as you go. Hole for a few seconds, and then slowly return to the starting position. Repeat on the other side. Complete ten reps on each side.
5. Happy baby pose: Opens the hips, stretches the inner groin, decompresses and lengthens the spine, calms the mind, and relieves stress.
How to do: Lying on your back, exhale and bend your knees toward your belly. Grip the outside of your feet with your hands. Bring your knees up towards your armpits, opening them slightly wider than your torso. Position your ankles over each knee, keeping shins perpendicular to the floor with heels flexed. Push your feet into your hands while pulling your hands down to create resistance. Hold for a minimum of ten breaths. The longer you hold, the better the stretch.
6. Child’s pose: Helps stretch tight hips, thighs, and ankles while reducing stress and fatigue.
How to do: Begin in a kneeling position. Lean forward by stretching your body down and forward as you drop your butt toward the heels. Once fully stretched, position arms in a relaxed position along the floor as you place your forehead on the mat. As you do the pose, you will feel a mild stretching across your shoulders, butt, and along your spine and arms.
7. Bird-dog stretch: Strengthens the core muscles, specifically the abdominals, lower back, butt, and thighs.
How to do: Begin on your hands and knees in the tabletop position, placing knees below hips and hands directly in line under your shoulders. Maintain a neutral (flat) spine by engaging your abdominal muscles. Start by raising your right arm and left leg with your shoulders and hips parallel to the floor. As you do this hold, you will be lengthening your neck and tucking your chin into your chest toward the floor. Hold for a few seconds, then right arm and left back down to the tabletop position. Now do the opposite by raising your left arm and right leg, and hold position for a few seconds. Return to tabletop position. Do two to three sets of eight to twelve repetitions.
8. Standing hamstring stretch: Stretches the back of the thighs, keeping these muscles loose and flexible; improves posture and reduces lower back pain.
How to do: Stand upright, bending one knee and extending the other out straight in front of you about six inches, heel on the ground and toes pointing up. Bend at the hips, keeping your back straight. Lower your chest until you feel a stretch in the back of the extended leg, and hold for up to 10 seconds or more. Repeat with the other leg.
Dr. David Samadi is the Director of Men’s Health and Urologic Oncology at St. Francis Hospital in Long Island. He’s a renowned and highly successful board certified Urologic Oncologist Expert and Robotic Surgeon in New York City, regarded as one of the leading prostate surgeons in the U.S., with a vast expertise in prostate cancer treatment and Robotic-Assisted Laparoscopic Prostatectomy. Dr. Samadi is a medical contributor to NewsMax TV and is also the author of The Ultimate MANual, Dr. Samadi’s Guide to Men’s Health and Wellness, available online both on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Visit Dr. Samadi’s websites at robotic oncology and prostate cancer 911.