Dr. Chris Oswald, chiropractor and muscle physiologist based in Toronto, suggests that, to get your muscles primed for the day's activities, it's ideal to take a few minutes each morning to perform a stretching routine.
"There's way more preparation that the body really needs before it goes out to shovel snow, lift the kids, do gardening, or bring out the garbage," Oswald says.
The importance of stretching lays in minimizing the risk of injury, he says, adding that if people commit to doing a regular morning stretch routine, they limit their risk of back pain by at least 80 per cent.
Make stretching your morning ritual
When you get out of bed in the morning, take a hot shower and use the warm water to loosen you up, Oswald advises. Then, making sure you have a nonslip surface in your shower or tub, do the following series of stretches.
Easy shower stretches
1. The neck tilt
Tilt your ear towards your shoulder and stretch the side muscles of your neck, letting the water run over them to loosen them up. Hold this position "until you feel things release," Oswald says. This stretch is necessary, he explains, because the neck muscles tighten up during sleep.
2. The side bend
Put your right arm up over your head and spread your legs so your feet are shoulder-width apart. Then, tilt your body to the left to flex the lateral muscles of your torso. Apply the same procedure using your left arm, tilting your body to the right.
3. The torso twist
Rotate your upper body to one side, then the other. "I always suggest bending over and touching your toes if you can," Oswald adds. Or, you can lean on the edge of your tub to stretch out your buttock muscles, hamstrings and calves.
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4. The hip flexor stretch
Hip flexors, which are the muscles located above your pelvis, become extremely contracted throughout the course of a day, particularly for people who work while sitting in a chair. Though we may not think much of hip flexors, Oswald says they play a very big role in our muscular health. "These (are) big, big muscles, like bicep muscles, that go from your hips to your pelvis to your lumbar spine and all your lumbar bones," he explains. "They're the ones capable of a lot of compression to your back (lumbar) discs, your joints and your nerves."
According to Oswald, when these hip flexors get over-activated by long periods of sitting, they put a great deal of pressure on your body.
To do the hip flexor stretch, after touching your toes, stand up and pull your heel back towards your buttock (as if you're doing a runner's or quadriceps stretch). Then lean forward and pull your thigh back, trying to get your thigh as parallel to the ground as possible.
5. Arm circles
Swing both arms in a forward motion five times, then in a backward motion another five times. Add torso twists with your arms up in front of you, twisting them from side to side. Do this about five to six times.
Holding each stretch for about 30 seconds, the entire routine should take less than five minutes to complete. If you feel unusually wound up and stressed out, Oswald advises to hold your stretches longer. Make sure to breathe in deep, full breaths, without rushing the flow of air into your lungs.
With these expert tips, it's easy to sneak in a quick morning workout and physically prepare your body for the day's activities. A regular morning stretch routine will also allow you to indulge in some quiet time, which will help you mentally prepare for the day ahead. Not bad for a few extra minutes in the shower.
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