The Science-Backed Reason to Add Stretching to Your Morning Routine
Somewhere, on another gravitational plane, a fantasy me exists. She drinks 64 ounces of water per day, gets twice-yearly dental cleanings, shuts her phone off before bed, and starts each and every morning with an hour-long yoga class.
On this plane, however, pulling a sweater over my head is the extent of my morning stretch routine. I’d always written off a morning stretch as something I’d do if I had enough time, or a gym in my apartment building, or perhaps a personal yoga teacher who made house calls. Only recently did I realize that stretching didn’t have to be an all-or-nothing endeavor—all I had to do to reap the benefits of an a.m. stretch was, well, stretch.
So last week, before scrolling through Instagram or even brushing my teeth, I hopped out of bed and lifted my arms above my head, twisting to one side, and then the other.
Then I reached down toward my toes, flexing my right calf, then my left.
I ended it all with a quick shake, then headed off to caffeinate.
It took less time than I would’ve spent checking my email, but I felt amazing, like my brain was pulsating with fresh, well-rested blood.
According to research, it was. Well, sort of.
Stretching boosts blood flow, studies have found, which helps circulate oxygen to the brain. One study, performed on men who’ve survived heart attacks, found that even a single stretching session improved their circulation. Plus, regular stretching builds both strength and flexibility, helping your body to stay healthy and alert through the day.
Even just the act of moving your body, after hours in the same position, can help you shift into a new mindset. You know how taking a walk around the block—or, let’s be honest, to the vending machine—leaves you feeling refreshed? The same goes for a morning stretch.
And if you, like me, have been meaning to establish a morning meditation habit for months (OK, years) now? Consider stretching to be a sort of active meditation.
Focusing on moving your muscles—even if it's just turning your head side to side or rolling out your shoulders—can help you concentrate, pinpointing your attention on your body and breath.
Read next: 7 Ways to Start Your Morning Off Right
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