Morning brain fog? Few people are likely to jump up with excitement once that alarm begins to sound. “Ding, ding,” it goes and we are called into another day of life.
Coffee, a brisk walk, and fresh air are great for getting us going in the morning. Yet, what about the muscles and joints that help us function? What can we do to welcome all of the parts of our body into each day? Can we use our arms and legs to help clear some of that brain fog? Yes!
We have created a list of the best morning stretches for clearing your mind and charging your body. Which ones will you choose first?
What Type of Stretches Are Best in the Morning?
Gentle dynamic stretches can be your best friend during a morning routine. Static stretches are best saved for when your body has generated a bit more flexibility for the activities of the day. So, what is the difference between dynamic and static stretching and why does it matter? Let’s find out.
Dynamic stretches offer your body gentle, repetitive motion. This helps redistribute fluid, blood, and nutrients that may have succumb to gravity’s command as you slept. On the other hand, static stretches are held longer and offer a more stationary position for each set of muscles. We are not saying that static stretches are bad. If you have a few favorites, enjoy them any time of day!
However, the movement of dynamic stretches is far more beneficial as you seek to get your mind and body moving after rest. Your brain and body are designed to regularly distribute fluid, nutrients and oxygen. Dynamic movements help to make this happen evenly and more naturally.
Morning dynamic stretches are best completed with a slow and gentle motion. Jerky and abrupt movements (e.g. kickboxing and some powerlifting techniques) are best left for when your body has had a chance to redistribute valuable resources throughout the limbs.
Are you ready for some examples of what you should do for a great morning stretch routine? Here are enough morning stretches that you can rotate them for a lively and interesting session every morning of the week!
Get Started Before Your Feet Hit the Floor!
1. Leg Hugs
Rest flat on the floor – or bed. Bring both legs to your chest and give yourself a hug! Release both legs down to the floor. Bring only your right leg and hug it. Now only your left leg and hug it. Repeat all three steps 3 to 5 times. Look! You don’t even have to get out of bed for this one!
2. Bent Leg Sways
Facing your ceiling, raise your knees and place your feet flat and together. Swing your knees to the right and to the left of your body as far as is comfortable. Repeat 3 to 5 times.
3. Morning Cycle on the Floor
Facing skyward, rest your body out flat. Place your hands on the floor to your sides. Raise your knees to your chest. Slowly rotate your slightly bent legs in a bicycle motion in the air. Reverse the motion and continue moving both legs in rotation.
This is a great motion for helping to get the blood flowing without giving you a headache first thing in the morning. This one can also be done without getting out of bed! Enjoy this motion for 30 to 60 seconds.
4. Ankle Movers
Find a seated position in which your upper legs are somewhat parallel to the floor. Maybe the edge of the bed. Raise your knees up and down gently and slowly, as you keep your toes on the floor. Notice how your ankles are engaged. Repeat 5 to 10 times.
5. Fingers to Toes Body Lengthening
Stand with your feet shoulder width apart from one another. Bring your right arm up over your head. Shift your weight onto your left leg as you stretch your fingers up diagonally over your left shoulder. Reach your right big toe to your right as you add your right leg to the stretch. With an even motion, switch sides 5 to 10 times.
For balance, you may choose to hold onto a wall, chair, or counter with either has as may be comfortable for you.
6. Knee to Elbow Walking
Choose a hallway or longer room in your home. As you walk from one side of the room to another, gently bring your right knee up to meet your right elbow. On the next step, do the left side. Do this 5 to 10 times on each side.
7. Cross Body Knee to Elbow Walking
Much like the stretch just prior to this one, choose a space for walking. As you walk, cross your right knee to meet your left elbow. Do this five to ten times per side.
8. Door Frame Grabber
Raise your arms up high and grab the top of a door frame in your home. Do this with an even pace 5 to 10 times. Try to keep your arms even with one another as your raise them.
Care to make it interesting? Travel from door to door and take a new perspective from each one as you raise those limbs. Not tall enough to reach the top of the door frame? No problem. The side frames of any doorway will also welcome you to stretch upon them.
9. Lung Openers
Sit or stand to lengthen your spine in an upright manner. Bring your shoulder blades together as you draw in a full breath of fresh morning air through your nose. This is a great one for the porch, yard, or park! Slowly release your breath through your mouth. Do this 5 to 10 times.
Alternately, you may choose to do this stretch 5 times at the beginning and 5 times at the end of your morning wake-up routine.
10. Belly Wake-Up (Cobra)
Rest your body in a prone position (face down). Place your elbows and palms flat on the floor by your upper torso. Push down into the floor with your hands and elbows raising your torso (half cobra). Draw in a full breath as you go. Then, lower your shoulders as you let the air out through your mouth. Do this 3 to 5 times.
For a challenge, try to straighten your arms (into full cobra). Be sure not to lock your elbows. Remember to use your breath to help you know how long to stay in each position. Moving and breathing together helps your body circulate oxygen and nutrients.
11. Core Wake-Ups
Begin with palms and knees shoulder length apart on the floor (table position). Raise your right arm and left leg simultaneously. Switch sides. Continue by alternating each side slowly 5 to 10 times. Keep your face parallel with the floor. Try not to sway from side to side as you move.
However, most people will notice a slight swaying motion while switching from side to side.
12. Forward Leg Swings
Stand with your spine as upright as possible. Hold onto a table, wall, tree, or door frame with your left hand. Gently swing your right leg in front of you and behind you 5 to 10 times. Switch sides.
13. Lateral Leg Swings
Stand with your spine as upright as possible. Hold onto a tree or door frame with your left hand. Gently swing your right leg in front of your left leg and then to your far right 5 to 10 times. Switch sides.
Be mindful of what may be next to you on either side. Kicking a table is no fun anytime of day – but it is certainly not the way most of us want to wake up our bodies!
14. Toe, Arch, and Calf Wake-Ups
Walk barefoot for a moment or two. Stand with your feet at a comfortable distance from one another. With an even pace, raise yourself up to stand on your toes and lower to flat feet again. Repeat 5 to 10 times. (If you have arch pain, you may need to put on comfortable, supportive shoes before you get out of bed.)
Once You Have Moved Around a Bit
Standing toe touches are a wonderful stretch for the legs, back, and arms. However, bending over first thing in the morning can make some people feel light headed. Blood needs to circulate throughout your body before you decide to bring your head below your heart. Be mindful of your personal blood pressure condition.
Save these next few stretches for after you have moved around a bit with a some of the stretches shown in numbers 1-14. This will help ensure that you get some fluid and oxygen flowing throughout your body first.
15. Alternating Toe-Touches
Stand with your feet apart shoulder distance. Reach your right hand down to touch your left foot, ankle, or shin. Directly from this, raise both arms up as you lengthen your spine and body to be upright. Reach your left hand to your right foot, ankle, or shin. Alternate from each position 3 to 5 times.
16. Wide-Legged Arm Swings
Place your feet as wide as is comfortable. Without locking your knees, bend at the waist and reach for your toes. Gently swing your arms allowing them to dangle as you wiggle your fingers. Raise and lower 1 to 3 times.
For a challenge, place your palms on the floor instead of swinging them. Bend at the knees bringing your bottom close to the floor. Breathe out as you lower into a crouching position. (If you have knee pain, you may wish to stick to only the arm swings.) Repeat 2 to 3 times.
17. Child’s Pose to Downward Dog
Start with your hands and feet square on the floor table position). Keeping your hands on the floor, lower your bottom to sit on your feet. Slowly, let out your breath as you go down. Tuck your head between your shoulders. You should feel your spine lengthen.
Come back to table position. Gently straighten your arms and legs and raise your bottom into the air (downward dog). Fill your lungs as you go upward. Push into your palms and feel the stretch throughout your arms and legs. In a fluid motion, do this transition 2 to 3 times.
Staying Motivated As You Advance in Your Routine
As you become comfortable with each stretch, try to complete them one right after the other. Create a new order each week. Do some forward leg swings as you brush your teeth to get you started on a day when you are less interested.
Teach your favorite morning stretches to a friend. This will help keep you inspired and refresh your memory for each one.
Print this list, and cut the paper into pieces according to the individual stretches. Shuffle the pieces and pick them at random to keep it interesting.
Putting It All Together
Stretches that pull through the whole body help to unify muscles, joints, tendons, and ligaments throughout your limbs. Alternate your favorites morning stretches. Keep it lively with these moving exercises for your morning wake up routine!
You will notice than many of these stretches can easily be adapted or enjoyed on the way to your favorite park, down the sidewalk, or in a yard space. A door frame can be traded for a tree. Your hallway can be traded for a park walkway. Out of time? Do as many stretches as you can walking to and from your work setting.
The most important thing is to get yourself moving in a way that incorporates your entire body without introducing fast and jerky motions first thing as your feet hit the floor in the morning.