It’s hard to jump out of bed for a great day when your muscles are stiff and your joints creaky. But you can change that by warming up and stretching before your feet ever touch the floor.
“Stretching before getting out of bed can help wake up the body and improve the circulation. It can also turn on the parasympathetic system – the ‘rest and digest’ system — which puts us in a more relaxed state right when we get out of bed, helping set the tone for a calm morning and day,” says Dr. Beth Frates, who directs wellness programming for the Stroke Research and Recovery Institute at Harvard-affiliated Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital.
Theoretically, stretching before getting out of bed may also help prevent falls. “By focusing on your legs and arms, you may be more careful and mindful when you put your feet on the ground,” Dr. Frates says.
Normally before you stretch, you should warm up your muscles; that gets blood flowing to them so they’re more pliable. But Dr. Frates says the muscles are already on the warmer side when you’ve been in bed all night. All it takes to prepare for stretches in bed, then, is a few minutes of flexing the joints before you stretch. (Tip: Remove your blanket and sheets before stretching, to give yourself a little more room.)
While you’re still lying down, flex your lower limbs: put your knees and feet in the air; with your knees in the air, raise and lower your feet; roll your ankles and move them back and forth.
Next, sit up in bed. Slowly look left and then right. Roll your shoulders a few times; work your elbows by holding both arms in front of you and doing biceps curls; flex your wrists up and down; open and close your hands several times.
Now you’re ready to start stretching. Try the stretches we’ve laid out for you on these pages (in any order you like). Some require a towel or resistance band, which you can keep next to your bed.
“Hold each stretch for 30 to 60 seconds if possible,” Dr. Frates advises. “And don’t bounce, which can damage the muscles.”
When you finish stretching, you’ll probably feel better. “Stretching can release the body’s ‘feel good’ chemicals, lubricate the joints, and help you maintain your range of motion,” Dr. Frates says. And that makes the wake-up stretching routine a prescription for a full day of better functioning.