Is cold weather making your body feel stiff and achy? You aren’t alone. Many of us are naturally less active in colder months and our bodies crave movement. Luckily, stretching can be a great way to stay relaxed and limber without requiring a significant time commitment.
While you should be sure to listen to your body and its limitations (or, talk to your doctor if you have concerns about specific stretches), stretching can be a low impact way to move your body and eliminate daily aches and pains. Try setting your alarm clock ten minutes earlier and starting your day with these five movements:
1. Reach Toward the Sky
This stretch can be done while sitting or standing. Reach both arms above your head and lace your fingers together, then turn your palms toward the ceiling. This stretch elongates your spine and loosens the muscles throughout your torso and arms. After holding the stretch for 10 seconds, lean toward one side, then the other to stretch your side abdominal muscles, or obliques.
2. Toe Touch
This is another stretch that can be performed either standing or sitting. Simply bend your body in half and reach toward your toes. You’ll feel a stretch along the backsides of your legs and arms as you reach forward. Hold the stretch comfortably for 10 seconds, then attempt to reach a little farther and repeat.
3. Downward Dog
This yoga pose is popular for good reason. Not only does it stretch your back, shoulders and hamstrings, downward dog also boosts circulation and can help wake you up in the morning. Plus, it’s easily modified for yoga beginners. Check out this YouTube video for step-by-step instructions.
4. Spinal Twist
Begin this stretch by lying flat on your back and bending your knees so your feet are flat on the floor. Then, keeping the top half of your body still, relax your knees to one side of your body until you feel a stretch in your lower back. Hold for a count of 30 and then slowly roll your knees over to the other side of your body. You might hear some small cracks as your spine shifts from a long night’s sleep.
5. Quad Stretch
You rely on your legs to get you through your day, so keeping your quad muscles (the big muscle group on the front of your thighs) well-stretched is important. Begin by either lying on one side or standing in an area safe for balance, then pull your ankle up behind you and hold with one hand. Repeat for your other leg.
While you want to push your body into a deep stretch to achieve maximum benefits, flexibility is something that increases with time and practice, so be careful not to push your body beyond its limits. You’ll likely find that by repeating these stretches every day, you’ll soon be able to reach deeper into your toe touches and lower your heels in downward dog.
For more tips to stay fit and active, download our free guide here.