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What do babies, cats and dogs have in common? They all like to stretch themselves after a good sleep. Many people agree that stretching is the first thing in the morning. It doesn't get much better than that.
Whether you've noticed it or not, stretching has probably become a part of your waking routine, and sometimes you even do it subconsciously. It's called stretching, and it's our body's natural, automatic response to chronic muscle contractions, the involuntary stretching and yawning we do when we wake up or sit for a long time.
'If you've ever seen a dog or baby stretch and yawn after a nap (and have the urge to say,' Oh, that's a big stretch of legs'), you've seen 'stretch' firsthand, 'says Michelle Ditto, manager of training and development at Pure Barre. "Curling is very important. It essentially 'wakes up' the sensorimotor system, and then there are more spontaneous movements, like stumbling from bed to the bathroom."
We will discuss the benefits of stretching in the morning. We even have some simple stretches for you.
Why is it important to stretch in the morning?
The abdominal contractions are essentially "an automatic response that we make to keep our muscles from overstraining, which is important for maintaining proper posture and breathing patterns," Tito said.
But voluntary stretching? Stretching and voluntary, regular, specific stretching that targets specific joints and muscles are essential to overall movement and health. Stretching is the body's way of keeping fascia, or the connective tissue around muscles, organs and blood vessels, soft, flexible and filled with oxygen.
In addition, stretching increases blood flow, wakes up sleepy limbs and gets the body ready for all the activities of the day. Plus, many of us spend a lot of time in front of a screen, and stretching can provide some "lotion" through movement.
Stretching, whether unconscious or voluntary, can reduce chronic back pain, increase range of motion, and reduce the risk of injury during exercise. Studies have even shown that stretching can reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, induce feelings of calm, and release endorphins.
"Taking some time out of your day, especially when you wake up, and paying full attention to your body, at that moment, will have a domino effect on the rest of your day, and it can also serve as a precursor to finding other opportunities to exercise throughout the day," Tito says.
Simple stretches to try
After a night's sleep, it's normal to feel a certain amount of tension when you wake up, as your body has been relatively still for several hours, so a morning stretch can moisturize your muscles and joints like oil.
"Even before you leave the bed, think about how you can add various stretches and movements that match your body's position at that moment," says Tito. "Your bed will cushion you, support you and ease you into the physical state you need for the day."
We asked Tito to share some of her favorite stretches -- keep reading to learn how to try them yourself.
Stretch # 1. "Good morning stretch" - put your arms over your head and your legs straight on the bed. Breathe deeply through your nose, hunch your shoulders, and stretch through your chest, fingertips, and toes. Exhale through your mouth and aim for complete relaxation - shoulders away from your ears, abdominal walls relaxed, chest connected, feet relaxed. What is needed!
Want to go further? Also consider your wrists and ankles. There are so many little muscles in our hands and feet that we tend not to think about them! Keep in mind that if you type, walk, stand or cook, these muscles will keep moving throughout the day. Give them some love and attention during your stretches. Rotate your wrists and ankles as you stretch. Did you hear a pop or two (or a dozen)? This is normal.
Stretch # 2. You can do this on your mattress! Turn your body forward and put your hands under your shoulders. As you inhale, gently press upward, keeping your elbows gently bent and your neck in line with the rest of your spine (avoid "crunching" your neck as you look up, especially in areas that tend to feel tense upon waking). Exhale and lower slowly. Repeat as needed to make your forequarters feel long and strong.
Stretch # 3. Sit on the edge of the bed and put your feet to one side (if you have something to put your feet on, like the edge of the bed frame, put them on). Sit up straight in a haughty pose. Bring your right arm across your body, place your left hand on the outside of your arm, away from your elbow, and lower your right shoulder off your earrest, breathing. Lift your right arm, bend your elbow, reach between your shoulder blades, touch your upper arm with your left hand, and keep breathing. Repeat left arm motion.
With your hands at your sides, lift your head slightly (to avoid a crunchy neck - aim to feel long across the spine), then lower your head with your chin toward your chest (to avoid going around your upper back). Repeat as needed.
Look ahead and lift your right arm, then reach for your opposite left ear (as if your arm were hanging over your head). As you tilt your head to the side, apply gentle pressure and tilt your right ear toward your right shoulder. Roll your left shoulder back and down, then keep breathing. Slowly look down at the right knee. Return to the center and repeat with the left arm.
Look forward, interlace your hands behind your back, palms together. As you raise your arms, roll your shoulders down and back, then stand up. Hold your breath.
Stretch # 4. Bend your knees, place your feet flat on the mattress and spread your hips apart. Cross your right ankle over your left knee. Put your hand under your left thigh. Gently pull your legs in your direction, keeping your right hip open and your feet bent. Hold this position for a few breaths, taking care to keep your lower back and shoulders relaxed into the mattress. Return to neutral, place both feet on the mattress and repeat on the left side.
Stretch #5. Keep your legs straight up against the ceiling and your feet bent. If you can, grab the back of your calf or thigh and slowly pull your leg in your direction. Put your lower back on the bed. Continue to take two deep breaths. Bend your knees outward towards your chest (knees toward your armpits). If you can, hook your big toe with two fingers or grab the edge of your foot for a deeper stretch. Again, put your back on the bed with your shoulders out over your ears. You can even add a rock on either side.
During exercise, you can use the BP smartwatch to track and record your exercise and fitness data.