Morning moves will jumpstart your day.
The last thing many people feel like doing when they first get up in the morning is exercising. However, a couple of simple movements are all it takes to stretch your muscles and get your joints moving and your blood flowing, says Robert Turner, PT, OCS, a Board-Certified Orthopedic Specialist and Clinical Supervisor at the Spine Therapy Center at the Weill-Cornell affiliated Hospital for Special Surgery.
"Without thinking about it, most people stretch in the morning before they even get out of bed--that's your body telling you what it wants to do. The exercises suggested here extend that natural instinct and make the most of it," Turner explains (See "Moves of the Month," below). "In fact, following any period of inactivity--whether it's sleeping all night or sitting in a chair for an extended period--it's important to get up and start moving. The stiffness you feel after inactivity, which is something many people ignore, is really your body asking you to move. Moving doesn't just make you feel better; it's vital for proper joint nutrition and muscular health."
Stretch and lengthen. The first exercise stretches and lengthens your muscles, and, when you rise up on your toes, it also engages your core and challenges your balance. "The risk of falls rises after age 60, and getting yourself to balance on your toes, even briefly, helps reduce the risk," Turner says. If you know you have balance problems, widen your stance so that your feet are hip-width apart, which will give you more stability, or do the stretch without going up on your toes, he advises.
Rotate to improve range of motion. The second exercise allows you to move your spine as well as your joints, including your shoulders, hips, knees, and feet. "When you feel loose, you feel light, so you'll need to exert less effort in your daily activities," Turner explains. "The exercise also will help increase circulation, and promotes concentration, body awareness, and deeper breathing, which means your tissues get more oxygen. Basically, you're prepping your body for whatever you need to do during the day."
Keep moving. "I tell my patients over and over, 'Get up and move. Gravity is taking over your body and pushing you down,"' Turner cautions. "Do these same exercises during the day whenever you've been inactive, but don't overdo the stretch or rotation. If you feel any sharp or radiating pain, stop immediately and consult your doctor."