Developing a habit of stretching to start and end the day can make a positive change in your life. It can help you to stay fit, improve your flexibility and balance, help you lose weight, and enhance your overall health. Below we share some of the most effective morning and evening stretches to increase health and fitness.
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Best Stretches to Start the Day
To start the day, try these five exercises:
1. Upward Stretch
To improve blood circulation immediately after you wake up, raise your arms directly above your head. Lock your fingers together with your palms facing up. Try to elongate your spine till you feel a stretching sensation in your arms and rib cage. Hold the posture for 10 seconds, then move your arms a few inches to one side and stretch your side body and torso. Hold for 10 seconds. Repeat on the other side.
2. Neck/Shoulder Stretch
Do this stretch to ease any tension that may have built up while sleeping. Sit in a meditative yoga posture. Then stretch the muscles on the right side of the neck by gently tilting your left ear and head toward your left shoulder and hold for about 20 seconds. Repeat this to stretch the muscles on the left side of the neck.
Take a deep breath to relax. Then, roll your shoulders backward for a few seconds and roll them forward. Lift them up to your ears and then drop them completely. This simple neck stretch is one of the best yoga stretches used to increase health and fitness.
3. Reclining Spinal Twist
A spinal twist will relieve stress in the lower back. While lying on your back, stretch out your arms to form a 90-degree angle with your body. Bend your right leg, pulling your knee toward your chest and then turn that knee and leg over to the left without moving your chest, while turning your face to the right. Hold for 10 seconds. You may hear a few cracks in your spine. Do this stretch gently and repeat it on the other leg.
4. Lying Side Quad Stretch
Use this stretch to the quads since they are among the most overworked muscles in the body. While lying on your left side, use your hand to support and prop your head up slightly. Lift up your right leg and bend your knees as if you want to kick a ball in the air. Then, hold it with your right hand for about 10 to 20 seconds. Turn over to your right side and repeat the stretch with your left leg.
5. Hamstring Stretch
Wake up your legs with the hamstring stretch. Lay flat on your back and look up to the ceiling. Lift your right leg until it forms a 90-degree angle with the rest of your body. Hold up your right leg at the back of the knee with both hands for about 10 to 20 seconds. Circle your ankles a few times and repeat on your left leg.
Best Stretches to End the Day
For the end of the day, try these five stretches:
1. Extended Cone Stretch
This motion stretches muscles at the side of your body. Start by standing up with about six to eight inches between your feet. Lift both arms above your head and clasp your fingers together. Take a deep breath and then bend your entire body to the left. Make some effort to stretch yourself through the side of your body. Hold this posture while breathing out and then return to the normal middle position as you inhale. Repeat this by stretching to the right.
Use this stretch the reach the muscles of your core and spine. Start by kneeling and then placing your hands flat on the ground so you’re on all fours. Let your arms be straight beneath your shoulders. Breathe out slowly as you round your back like a cat that has been frightened. Tighten the muscles of your abdomen and bend your neck downwards. Then, gradually exhale while creating an arch on your back and looking up at the ceiling. Do several of these cat/cow stretches.
3. Lying Piriformis Stretch
This stretch helps to improve flexibility in your hips and glutes. It also enables you to overcome back pain and sleep well. Begin by lying face up and bending your knees. Raise your right leg to place the right ankle on your left thigh. Grab your left thigh and pull it to your trunk until it is at 90 degrees. You will feel the stretch in your hips and glutes. Breathe in deeply and hold your breath for up to 30 seconds. Then do the same thing on the other side.
4. Kneeling and Hip Flexor Stretch
This stretch works on the hip flexor, which enables you to raise your leg and bend your body forward. Start by kneeling with your upper body straight. Bring your right leg forward then place it on the ground with a flat foot with your knee bent to form a 90-degree angle. Be sure your knee is directly over your ankle. Don’t allow it to shift right or left. Shift forward so you can stretch the left leg behind you. Position your hands on the front thigh for balance and make sure your back stays straight. Hold the posture for 30 seconds. Repeat on other leg.
5. Modified Hurdler Stretch
Stretch your hamstrings again before going to bed to undo the tension from sitting and standing during the day. Sit down on the ground and extend a leg out in front of you. Bend the knee on your other leg and place the sole against your straight leg. Then, lean forward while putting pressure on your straight leg. Keep your back straight. Breathe quietly and keep your posture for 30 seconds. Repeat on other leg.
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