Sedentary lifestyles and unregulated food habits affect our health in many ways. Often these manifest as body aches and joint pains too. However, some form of regular physical activity helps soothe or delay the onset of several types of aches, like back pain, neck pain, rigid shoulder etc.
In the fast-paced lives we lead, there may not always be time for an hour-long workout session. In that case, these morning stretches are perfect to do every day to find relief from an aching body and continue your day with a healthy spirit.
Why morning stretches are important
Mornings are the most productive, peaceful and positive time of the day. Beginning your day early often helps finish chores that might have remained pending for days before that. But even if you're not a morning person, the moment you wake can be considered your ‘morning.’ Because body pains are a common problem these days, incorporating some stretches in the morning routine is necessary to live a healthy and happy life where your goals do not get compromised by some pain. There are many benefits of doing morning stretches. Morning stretching exercises lengthen and strengthen muscles, reduce the chance of injuries, increase flexibility, and promote better motion for the day ahead.
Some stretches for the upper body
If you experience pain in your upper body, particularly your neck, arms, shoulders or back, trying these upper body stretches might prove to be a lifesaver.
1. Neck stretch
Gently move your left ear towards your left shoulder using your left hand on your head for support. Stretch to the point it is comfortable and repeat the exercise on the right side. Hold the position for 10 seconds and do 8-10 sets of this to soothe the tension in your neck. This is one of the most effective morning stretches for men who spend hours looking at a desktop screen or driving perhaps.
2. Cobra stretch
An excellent morning stretch for women and men dealing with shoulder, neck and back pain owing to stressful lives, the cobra stretch helps loosen the muscles and makes the body flexible. You need to lie down on your stomach for this pose and place your hands beneath your shoulders. Now you need to tuck your elbows by your sides and raise your head and chest gently while keeping your hips and groin on the bed. You can look up and stretch further if you feel comfortable and hold the position for 10 seconds. Doing this stretch 8-10 times every morning helps ease sore muscles.
3. Shoulder stretch
To relax your shoulder blades, reach one arm across your body and use the support of your other arm to deepen the stretch. Hold this position for 30 seconds and repeat for the other side. You can do this stretch 4-6 times each morning to soothe your shoulder pain.
4. Upper back stretch
To stretch your upper back, sit on the edge of your bed, and place your feet on the floor. Interlock your fingers and reach forward, by bending from your middle back. Now stretch with your hands up at shoulder level so that you feel the stretch between your shoulder blades. Hold the position for 10 seconds and repeat 4-6 times to soothe upper back pain.
Some stretches for the lower body
For any pain in your lower body, particularly in your hips, hamstrings, quads, calves and ankles, try the following morning lower back pain stretches.
5. Hamstring stretch
For pain in your hamstrings, stand up straight and gently bend one knee to a sitting-like position. Now place the other leg outright, so that your toes are stretched towards the ceiling. Bend from your hips to feel a stretch on the back of the outstretched leg. Hold this position for 30 seconds and then repeat for the other leg. Doing this morning stretch for 6-8 times every morning will help soothe hamstring pain and strengthen your muscles.
6. Standing quad stretch
An effective stretch for quad muscles (muscles at the front of one's thighs) pain involves standing up straight and holding onto the wall or a chair for support (if required). The feet need to be kept at a hip-width distance. You then need to reach back and grab the left foot with your left hand while keeping your thighs lined up next to each other. The left leg should be in line with the hip. Feel the stretch on your left thigh and hips and hold the position for 30 seconds. Now repeat this exercise for the right leg. Do 6-8 sets of this stretch every morning and see the results.
7. Calf stretch
To soothe pain in your calf muscles, place your hands on a wall for support, and place your left leg backwards. Now gently push your left heel towards the ground to feel a stretch along the back of your left calf. Hold the position for 30 seconds and then repeat the exercise for your right leg. Do 6-8 reps of the exercise every morning to see visible results.
8. Hip stretch
An effective morning stretch to soothe any hip pain is the Pigeon pose. It helps loosen the hip using a forward bend that stretches your back, thighs, groin, piriformis, and psoas. The pigeon pose is recommended for people who have a desk job requiring them to sit for long durations. It has three types and you may choose any of these hip-opening movements as per your comfort for a pain-free life.
Importance of post-stretch cooling down
After you're done with your morning stretches, it's important to give your body some cooling time to relax. For starters, do not overexert yourself on the first few days of a workout if you're a beginner. Increase the intensity and duration of the workout gradually to stop any exertion, fatigue and subconscious repulsion towards your exercise regime. Also, it's important to understand that your body will take time to adapt and show the level of flexibility you'd like to achieve. While doing the above stretching exercises, stretch as far as it's pain-free and comfortable for you. In case of any prior injuries, refrain from stretching that particular area. Allow that cooling period for your body to reach the normal heart rate and blood pressure level. It's also good practice to do mild arm and leg stretches while you're giving yourself the cooling time.