9 Best Stretches to Start Your Day

Updated on March 10, 2020

One in four people in the U.S. sits for more than 8 hours each day. In addition to putting you at risk for more health concerns, sitting can be hard on your muscles and joints.

The best stretches for chronic sitting help lengthen the muscles in your body while releasing tension. Check out these 9 stretches to increase your flexibility. 

1. Downward Facing Dog

One of the most effective whole-body stretches is the downward-facing dog. This is a common yoga stretch that is beneficial for increasing flexibility in the shoulders, calves, and hamstrings.

This stretch also helps elongate your cervical spine taking away pressure from your back and head. If you are suffering from sciatica or sinusitis, the downward-facing dog is one of the best stretches to help alleviate symptoms. 

To do this stretch, start on your hands and knees. Place your knees below your hips and your hands directly beneath your shoulds.

Spread your fingers and turn your toes under. Take a deep breath and as you exhale lift your butt up into the area until your legs and arms are straight.

Your body should form an upside-down ‘V’ with your knees slightly bent. Lengthen your tailbone as you sink deeper into the stretch. 

2. Runner’s Lunge

The runner’s lunge is another deep stretch that’s great for the beginning or end of a long day. Start in the standing position with your arms at your sides.

Extend your right leg behind you with your toes tucked under. To make the stretch more challenging, extend the leg back to widen your stance as far as you can without losing your balance. 

Your leg extension should go directly behind you so that your leg stays in line with your right hip. Your left knee should remain over your left ankle. 

Hold this stretch for one to three minutes to feel the effects in your hamstring before gently bringing your legs back together.

Repeat the stretch on your left leg.

3. Butterfly Stretch

One of the best stretches, while seated, is the butterfly stretch. The butterfly stretch helps to open the hip and groin area which can become tight when you sit too long.

Start by sitting on the floor or on a sturdy surface with your legs together. Draw your heels in toward your body with your knees pointed outward.

Place your heels and the soles of your feet together as close to your body as you can. Gently press down on your thighs with your hands until you feel a stretch in your inner thigh.

To increase the challenge, press down on both legs with your elbows or lower your head to your heels to add a deep stretch of the spinal cord. 

4. Standing Forward Bend

The standing forward bend is helpful because you can do it while traveling, in the office, or outside before working out. This is a great stretch for your lower back and hamstrings.

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart to start. Bend over at your hips until your hands touch the floor.

Fold your arms at the elbow and hang for around three minutes. Sway from side to side to help lengthen your back while you stretch.

Keeping your legs slightly bent is helpful if your legs are not flexible. With time, your stretch will deepen as your muscles get used to the position.

5. Standing Side Stretch

Another way to relieve tension in your upper body caused by sitting is the standing side stretch. The standing side stretch is also great to use after an upper-body weight lifting workout.

To begin, stand with your legs hip-width apart. Raise your arms straight up in the air above your head. 

Lean over to one side keeping your pelvis upright and your back straight. Grab one hand above your head with the other gently pulling on your hand to elongate the muscles around your rib cage.

Hold for 30 seconds before slowly raising your body back into standing position. Repeat the stretch on the opposite side.

6. Knees to Chest

Lying on the floor pull your knees into your chest and hold for 60 seconds. Lower your legs back down to the floor.

Repeat the stretch three times to stretch out your lower back. The knees-to-chest stretch requires little flexibility making it a great option for beginners. 

The stretch is also a great way to relieve gas pains while improving digestion. 

7. Cat & Cow Stretch 

While on your hands and knees, align your hips and knees then shoulders and hands. The cat stretch is a deep upward arch in your back while you tuck your tailbone under.

Be sure your chin is to your chest to deepen the stretch. The cow pose is the opposite motion.

Arch your back downward with your chin pointed upward toward the ceiling. Feel your hips opening as your contract your abdominal muscles lower towards the floor. 

8. Neck Roll

The body’s capacity to stretch increases each time you do a stretching exercise. It’s like your body having an external hard drive: https://setapp.com/lifestyle/the-best-external-hard-drive-for-mac-today

The constant use of screens can leave the neck feeling stiff throughout the day. A quick remedy is the neck roll stretch.

Starting with your chin to your chest, roll your head around slowly finishing with your chin resting on your chest again. Roll your head in the opposite direction going slowly to maximize the benefits of the stretch. 

9. Quadriceps Stretch

Standing with your legs together, lift your heel to your buttocks for a deep stretch of the quadriceps. Repeat on opposite leg holding each for about 60 seconds.

If you have trouble balancing, use a chair or wall to stabilize yourself while you stretch.

Best Stretches for Tension Relief

The best stretches to start your day can help you remove the tension caused by inactive muscles throughout sleeping hours. These stretches can often be repeated throughout the day to help you build flexibility.

Your body will thank you whether you spend most of the day sitting or walking. For more health and fitness tips, visit our blog for updates.

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