Exercising and stretching have always gone hand in hand. But there’s good reason to stretch even when you’re not working out. Stretching can help your body maneuver through your various daily activities from morning to night. These four stretches are easy to master and go a long way toward helping you feel great all day.
When to do it: Right after you wake up.
What it does: Eliminates morning stiffness by loosening your lower back and hips.
How to do it: Sit on your bed or the floor with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor, slightly wider than your hips. Place your hands behind you, fingers pointing toward the floor. Exhale and drop your knees to the right, lifting and rotating your hips to help your knees drop more if necessary. Inhale and slowly raise your knees, then lower them to left on an exhale. Continue alternating side to side until you feel loose.
When to do it: Before you sit down at your desk or anytime you need a break from sitting too long.
What it does: Prevents and eases back pain and helps maintain healthy discs in your spine.
How to do it: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your feet parallel. Place the heels of your hands behind you on your upper glutes, fingers pointing toward the floor and thumbs wrapping around your hips. Look straight ahead and inhale. As you exhale, slowly pull your elbows toward each other, contracting your core and glutes, and shift your hips forward as you lean your torso back slightly. Inhale as you return to start. Repeat three to five times, stretching back a little more each time.
When to do it: Before yardwork or any activity where you’ll be leaning forward.
What it does: Prevents back pain and soreness.
How to do it: Sit on the floor with your right leg bent on the floor in front of you and your left leg bent on the floor behind you, angling your right foot so it’s almost touching your left knee. Place your hands on the floor on each side of your right knee. While inhaling, lengthen your spine from the top of your head and then exhale, lowering your torso to the floor. Roll up through your spine until you’re sitting tall. Repeat as many times as it takes to feel less stiff, taking your torso over the front of your knee at different angles and lowering more each time if possible so you target different muscle fibers in your glutes. Switch sides and repeat.
When to do it: Within 30 minutes before going to bed, preferably after a warm bath or shower.
What it does: Relaxes you so you will fall asleep more easily, stretches your diaphragm to aid breathing, and releases the tension in your hip flexors, which shorten from sitting all day.
How to do it: Sit on the floor with your right leg bent on the floor in front of you and your left leg bent on the floor behind you, angling your right foot so it’s almost touching your left knee. Lean to the right and place your right elbow and left hand on the floor to the right side of your body. Lean forward slightly as you turn your chest toward the floor, inhaling. Then exhale and, keeping your elbow on the floor, lean back, looking up. Repeat as many times as you like, leaning further back each time. Switch sides and repeat.