10 Stretches That Are Just As Energizing As a Walk Around the Block
It’s 2 p.m. on a Tuesday and your butt’s asleep. You’ve been at it since dawn, writing those emails, reviewing those slides and you can’t remember the last time you stood up, let alone exercised or broke a sweat. You look outside, eager to get moving with a walk around the block when you notice it’s raining. Or snowing. Or hailing if you’re anywhere north of Tulsa.
As the seasons change, so do our daily routines. For many of us stuck at home or working long hours during this new normal, walks have become a lifeline. A chance to leave our desks, stretch our legs and find new sources of energy. But as the cooler temps roll in, our walks will inevitably dwindle. Luckily, there’s an easy way to get that same restorative boost without breaking out your parka. Just stand up, find some space and stretch.
Though we often associate stretching with cooling down, loosening up or relaxation, there are a number of easy stretches designed to invigorate and revive our tired minds and bodies. “Stretching prevents you from getting aches, pains and from becoming stiff,” the team at StretchIt tells us, a fitness app that offers virtual stretching and flexibility classes (a favorite here at PureWow). “In a state of stiffness, you tend to feel lethargic. When you stretch, you get your blood circulating and your muscle tissues moving. Wherever there’s heat, there’s energy,” and wherever there’s increased blood flow, there’s increased oxygen. “That translates into feeling less sluggish and more activated. Between your brain stimulation and the physical movement, stretching will help you feel more energized.”
To help you get started, here are ten energizing stretches to add to your current routine. Don’t have a routine? Don’t sweat it. “Once you begin stretching throughout the day you’ll realize you don’t necessarily need to dedicate an hour at a time to do it,” they explain. “Whenever you find pockets of time here and there, plug in a quick minute to get up and stretch. These small windows will help you get into the habit of stretching. Eventually, you’ll get to a point where your body craves it.” Now, who’s ready for some chest openers?
1. Scooping Side Stretch
*This stretch warms up the back and side body. It also helps alleviate lower back pain.
Step 1: Begin standing with your legs wider than your hips. Place your right hand on your hip. Inhale and reach your left arm up and over towards the right, moving into a side bend.
Step 2: Exhale and bend the knees as your curl forward, following your arm across and over to the left. On your next inhale, repeat the side bend on the opposite side. Flow through this movement 4 to 6 times.
2. Chest Opener
*This stretch opens up the (duh) chest while reducing tension in the upper back and hip flexors.
Step 1: Begin standing with your feet hip-width apart. Inhale and open your arms to the sides, reaching them behind you while flexing your wrists. Look up to deepen the stretch.
Step 2: Exhale and reach your arms forward palms away from you with your fingertips facing each other. Round your upper spine, tuck your pelvis and scoop your belly up. Flow through this movement 4 to 6 times.
3. Neck Stretch with Shoulder Mobilization
* This stretch releases tension in the neck while warming up and mobilizing the shoulders.
Step 1: Begin standing with your feet hip-width apart. Grab your head with your right hand and pull it towards your shoulder.
Step 2: Keeping your shoulders down, inhale and lift your left arm up. On your exhale, slowly lower the arm back down. Flow through this movement 4 to 6 times and repeat on the other side.
4. Knee Circles
*This exercise warms up the quads and core while promoting hip mobility and improving balance.
Step 1: Begin standing with your legs wider than your hips. Slowly bring your right knee up and across your body to the left. Circle it back around to the right, letting it fall open and lower back down.
Step 2: Repeat this same movement with your left leg, bringing it up and across your body to the right, then circling it back around to the left and letting it fall open. Flow through this movement 6 to 8 times while alternating sides.
*This stretch lengthens out your lower back and hamstrings while warming up your core.
Step 1: Begin standing with your feet shoulder-width apart and your hands on your hips. Exhale while bending your knees slightly and hinge forward at your hips until you reach a flat back.
Step 2: Inhale and reverse the movement to return to the starting position. Flow through this movement 6 to 8 times.
6. Wrist Stretch
*This stretch restores range of motion in the wrist joints. If you type at a computer all day long, this one is a must.
Step 1: Begin on your hands and knees with your fingertips pointing back towards the body.
Step 2: Exhale and move your hips back to sit on your heels as far as possible, keeping your palms on the ground. Inhale, release and return to the starting position. Flow through this movement 6 to 8 times.
7. Arm Circles
*This exercise works the arms, shoulders and upper back. It also opens up the chest and improves the range of motion in your shoulder joints.
Step 1: Begin on your hands and knees with your fingertips pointing out away from the body and wrists directly below your shoulders. Inhale and circle your right arm forward, up and back, making sure your armpit faces out as you open your chest up.
Step 2: As your arm comes down, curl your chest in and exhale, returning to center. Repeat on the opposite side, moving slowly. Flow through this movement 6 to 8 times while alternating sides.
8. Side Puppy Stretch
*Sit or stand all day? This exercise is a game-changer. It stretches the spine and releases tension in the shoulders, upper back and neck.
Step 1: Begin on your hands and knees with your fingertips pointing out away from the body. Exhale and reach your right arm forward with your thumb up while simultaneously pressing your armpit and head down towards the ground. Look to the right to deepen the stretch and make sure your hips stay directly over your knees
Step 2: Hold here for a breath or two (or as long as you need). Release and return to the starting position. Repeat on the opposite side, extending the left arm out. Flow through this movement 4 to 6 times while alternating sides.
9. Open Lunge with Thigh Push-Outs
*Again, with the sitting! This stretch opens the hips and reduces stiffness in the hamstrings and hip flexors.
Step 1: Beginning on your hands and knees, step your right foot forward outside your right hand with your toes facing out and drop your hips down toward the ground. Hold here, allowing the thigh to roll open. To deepen the stretch, press your right knee away with your right hand and twist.
Step 2: Return to all fours and step the left leg forward, following the same pattern. Flow through this movement 6 to 8 times while alternating sides.
10. Foot to Thigh, Arch and Curl
*This stretch releases tension and alleviates pain in the lower back. It also helps warm up the hamstrings.
Step 1: Begin in a seated position with your right leg out and your left leg bent with the sole of your foot resting against your inner right thigh.
Step 2: Inhale and bend your right leg, keeping your foot flexed. Exhale and straighten your right leg while folding over your knee keeping the back straight and your gaze forward. Flow through this movement 6 to 8 times and then repeat on the opposite side.