I’ve often been asked if stretching first thing in the morning is good for you. The answer is a resounding yes! A morning stretch routine offers several benefits in addition to just improving your flexibility.
A simple stretch routine in as little as 8 minutes can help energize you and get your day started off on the right foot, no equipment required. Here are 5 reasons why you should stretch in the morning:
I’m not saying stretching will get the blood pumping like a good run or HIIT circuit. However, it can get you going at just the right amount and rate since, after all, you just woke up! Lying in bed after a night’s sleep can stiffen your muscles especially if you had a rigorous workout the day before or have been sitting at a desk staring down at a computer screen. Stretching can help relieve some of that tension and facilitate the process of removing lactic acid and getting fresh oxygenated blood to those muscles.
When performed first thing in the morning, stretching can literally wake up your mind and body. Not only do the muscles benefit, but the nerves that control your muscles get a chance to fire and get you ready to do your daily tasks. Your brain will get a dose of circulation to help make you alert and sharp for the day to come.
There is a lot of controversy about how stretching before an activity or sport doesn’t directly prevent injuries from happening. However, from my perspective, if you increase the circulation in your muscles to make them more pliable, stimulate the nervous system so it can react to movement, and mobilize all your joints in your body to stimulate the production of synovial fluid (that’s what lubricates your joints), then collectively you can reduce the likelihood of injury when tackling your to-do list at the start of your day.
Your spinal alignment is influenced by how you hold yourself up on a daily basis. If you often find yourself slouched forward with your shoulders rounded and head looking down at your computer screen or phone, then your body can end up holding on to that posture. A specific morning flexibility routine can help address this and serve as a reminder for good posture and alignment.
This is supposed to be a given, right?! This is only true if you are consistent in your stretch routine. Think of it this way, your cardio or strength doesn’t improve overnight from just one day of exercising. The same applies to your flexibility.
Remember not to rush into a stretch first thing in the morning. Take your time and move into each stretch slowly and carefully. Your body has been lying down for several hours causing your body to be in a much different physical state versus when you’ve been upright all day. If you feel stiff at first, that’s ok it’s normal. Some of your joints haven’t moved for several hours causing short-term discomfort so listen to your body and move accordingly.
Breathing is also an important component of a morning stretch routine. This can be a separate discussion in itself, but generally speaking, I recommend breathing in through the nose for four seconds and exhaling slowly out the mouth. Your abdomen should fill during breathing, and the rib cage expands both front to back and side to side.
Flexibility is just as important as cardio and strength in your fitness routine. A morning routine can help loosen you up, stimulate your brain, lubricate your joints, and help counteract the effects of sitting hours in front of a computer screen or staring at a smartphone screen by relieving tension and improving your posture.
Looking for mobility and a morning stretch routine of your own? Check out our Introduction to Mobility & Cooldown video above.
Randy Leopando, CSCS, FMS, RCPT*E
A fitness industry veteran of 22 years, Randy is the Training and Education Manager at TRUE Fitness. He spent much of his career as a fitness director and operations management for a privately owned fitness facility that offered general memberships, personal training, group fitness, small group training, Pilates, nutrition counseling, and sports performance training. Randy has been a consultant for ACE, regional committee member for NSCA, and currently provides education on TRUE cardio and strength products to club owners and staff.
* Cobra stretch. Lie on your stomach and place your hands flat beneath your shoulders. * Knees-to-chest. Lying flat on your back, bring one knee to your chest and hold it in position with your arms or hands. * Spinal twist. * Upper back stretch. * Neck stretch. * Shoulder stretch. * Side stretch. * Standing quad stretch.
Stretching first thing in the morning can relieve any tension or pain from sleeping the night before. It also helps increase your blood flow and prepares your body for the day ahead. Stretching before bed relaxes your muscles and helps prevent you from waking up with more pain.
A good morning stretch routine should only take about five to 10 minutes. Use this time to stretch the muscles you use most often, specifically leg muscles – like your calves, hamstrings, hip flexors (pelvis) and quadriceps – along with your shoulders, neck and lower back.
In the morning, your muscles are at their all-time stiffest because you've been inactive for hours and your body temperature drops when you sleep. Stretching princess-style when you wake up = Bad Idea.
Research has shown that exercising in the morning can help you burn more calories than completing the same workouts later in the day. So, including a few stretches in your morning routine could be beneficial for weight loss.