The Best Morning Stretching Routine for Your Body and Brain

How often do you wake up fully energized and ready to tackle your day? If you’re like most people, you often feel tempted to slam the snooze button or to lay in bed scrolling through your phone until the last possible minute.

However, spending five minutes stretching each morning can have a powerful impact on your mornings. This type of exercise can boost blood flow throughout your body, setting up your muscles to be active and ready to take on the day.

Stretching not only benefits your body, but also your mind. It activates your parasympathetic nervous system — that part of your brain that turns off your anxiety-provoking fight-or-flight response and helps you relax after a period of stress. Research has even found that stretching can help you think more clearly, focus better, and improve your memory.

In other words, stretching can help wake up your mind and body, helping you stay alert but calm during your morning meetings and activities. Read on to discover simple stretches you can do that may help even more than your morning cup of coffee.

Stretches for Your Body and Brain

Doing physical activity may be the last thing you want to do when you first open your eyes in the morning, but you can make it easier for yourself by warming up your muscles before you even get out of bed! Start with a few basic stretches while lying down, and then gradually progress to getting up and performing bigger movements. A few minutes is all it takes to get your heart pumping.

Take your time working through each stretch. Once you get into each position, take five deep, slow breaths and then move at an easy pace into the next stretch.

The Best Morning Stretching Routine for Your Body and Brain
The Best Morning Stretching Routine for Your Body and Brain

The Knees-to-Chest Stretch

This first stretch is the perfect move if you sometimes feel pain or tension in your spine or lower back, or spend much of your day hunched over in front of a computer.

Start by lying on your back. Bend your knees and reach out with your hands to grab your shins, knees, or backs of your thighs — whichever feels best to you. Slowly pull your knees towards your chest until you feel a slight stretch in your thighs, hips, or lower back. Don’t pull too hard! You should feel a little bit of pulling without being in pain.

The Spinal Twist

After the knees-to-chest stretch, it’s time to further wake up your back with a little twisting action!

Bring both knees in towards your chest. Let your arms drop so they are stretched out on either side of your body in a “T” shape. Slowly let your knees fall to the right side, while keeping your left shoulder as close as possible to your bed. Hold, and then repeat on the opposite side.

You should feel a nice stretch throughout your back, hips, and shoulders.

The Cobra Stretch

Once you’ve stretched out your back, roll over onto your stomach for a simple yoga pose.

Place your hands directly underneath your shoulders. While keeping your hips firmly pressed down into your bed, push up so that your head, shoulders, and chest are raised. You can also try pushing until your stomach is lifted, too, if it doesn’t cause too much strain.

At this point in your morning stretching routine, you will have already warmed up multiple muscle groups throughout your back, shoulders, arms, abdomen, and glutes!

Neck Stretch

You’re hopefully now feeling awake enough that sitting up doesn’t sound too bad.

Get out any kinks in your neck and shoulder muscles by sitting on the edge of your bed, letting your head fall towards your right shoulder, and placing your right hand on top of your head to deepen the movement. Don’t actually pull on your head — this could lead to injury. Instead, let the weight of your head and arm allow your head to slowly sink to the side. Repeat on the other side.

Forward Fold

Now, it’s finally time to stand up. Continue stretching your back and legs by standing with your feet directly underneath your hips. While keeping your knees slightly bent, allow your upper body to bend forward, with your hands reaching down towards your toes. Let your arms and head hang as you inhale and exhale five times.

Side Stretch

Activate the muscles all throughout your side body — in your arms, shoulders, and the sides of your abdomen, hips, and legs — with this simple stretch.

While standing, raise your arms above your head and clasp your hands together. Shift your hips to the right and move your arms up and to the left so that your entire body is gently curved like a crescent moon. Breathe deeply into your side muscles, then repeat on the other side.

Finding the Routine That Works Best for Your Mornings

Before throwing yourself into the hustle and bustle of your day, take just a few moments to yourself to stretch — your body and brain will thank you! You just may find yourself feeling more energized, productive, and focused.

Don’t feel like you need to push your body to the limits to see benefits — stretching should be relaxing and pain-free. Even just five minutes of this activity can be enough to energize your entire day! (But always check with your doctor before implementing any kind of stretching or exercise routine.)

By Mo McNulty

Maureen McNulty studied molecular genetics and English at Ohio State University. She has spent over a decade researching the genetic causes of — and possible treatments for — multiple types of cancer. Maureen is now a medical writer who is passionate about helping people use science to enrich their lives.