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Does your morning exercise routine consist of working your arms by smacking the snooze button for the third time? (No shame ― sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do!)
It may feel like exercising at the start of the day is an impossible feat when you’re so exhausted. However, you don’t have to spring out of bed and start running a 5K to feel energised. Even a little bit of movement will go a long way when it comes to revving you up for the day.
“Moving your body when you first wake up helps your circulation and stimulates your lymphatic system,” said Jennifer Jacobs, a certified personal trainer and founder of The J Method, adding that exercise helps fluid move through your body and reduce inflammation. “As a result, you feel more energised.”
We asked experts to share the best energy-boosting moves that’ll help you kickstart your morning feeling loose and alert. Here are their favourites:
1. Downward dog
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Start your a.m. with a downward dog to get your blood flowing and increase alertness.
One of the reasons you may not want to drag yourself out of bed is because your body is stiff from sleeping all night. This yoga pose is a great way to kickstart blood flow and wake up, said Megan Roup, founder of The Sculpt Society.
Starting on your hands and knees, stack your shoulders over your wrists and spread your palms out wide. Pressing through your palms, tuck your toes and lift your knees, pointing your hips toward the ceiling as you press down through the heels.
“To make this stretch more active, you can pedal out the feet while you actively press into the floor or bend and straighten both legs,” Roup said. Hold the pose for 15 seconds and repeat for three to four rounds.
2. Hamstring flossing
“This dynamic stretch helps to loosen up your hamstrings and your lower back more effectively than doing a static stretch, which may cause muscle spasms if your body isn’t properly warmed up,” said Theresa Marko, a board-certified orthopaedic clinical specialist in physical therapy and owner of Marko Physical Therapy.
To do this move, start by lying on the floor with knees bent and feet flat. Gently grab behind one of your thighs and straighten and bend the knee repeatedly (just make sure not to overextend your knee). This back-and-forth flossing motion will give your hamstring a stretch-and-release sensation. Do 10 repetitions on each side for two to three rounds.
3. Wake-up bounce
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Don’t underestimate the cardio and energy power of a little dancing.
“This is my go-to morning move that really wakes me up,” Jacobs said. “Choose a song that’s roughly three to five minutes and spend the duration of the song bouncing through the balls of your feet. You’ll start to increase blood flow – not to mention sneak in a quick calf workout – and may find that after the song ends your mood has improved, too.”
4. Child’s pose to side bend
It may seem counterproductive that one of the stretches to wake you up resembles a move that looks like you’re sleeping, but Khalil Jones, a certified personal trainer who also trains at Rumble Boxing in Philadelphia, said this move is great for stomach sleepers. This is because it can reset the spine after having the lower back rounded forward all night. (And reducing stiffness in your back allows you to move more freely and feel more energised.)
Kneeling on the floor, spread your knees hip-width apart and bend forward to place your torso between your thighs. Lengthen your tailbone and place your hands out to the side. Hold for 15 seconds for three to four rounds. As you come out of child’s pose, do a side bend: Grab one elbow with the opposite hand over your head and lean away from the elbow. This will stretch your back and triceps and improve mobility in your upper body.
5. Hip flexor stretch
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A hip flexor stretch can alleviate tightness in multiple parts of your body.
“Hip flexors are such an important muscle,” Marko said. “Tight hamstrings can tug on your lumbar spine, and this can cause pain.”
Dropping down into a half kneeling position, do a slight pelvic tilt, lunging yourself forward to stretch your hip flexors. Hold for 15 seconds, repeating for three to four rounds.
If you feel too tight to try this, start by lying on the floor first, knees bent and feet flat. Keep your knees together and rock your legs side to side. Next, let your knees fall all the way down to one side to get a more intense stretch on your lower back. Switch sides, holding for 15 seconds each time, and then try the hip flexor stretch again.
6. Lateral breathing
If you just can’t get yourself out of bed to stretch and move before you need to be productive, don’t sweat it. Nikki Chrysostomou, a licensed movement therapist and founder of Movement Integration, said you can practice this stimulating stretch anywhere ― in the car, at your desk or even on your bed.
All you need to do is inhale and exhale deeply and focus your mind on getting the breath into your sides. If it’s helpful, you can place your hands on your ribcage to help you monitor where your breath is going.
“Lateral breathing helps to stimulate the mind,” Chrysostomou said. “To do this, work on taking breath away from the stomach. Think of breathing into the back of your ribcage, into the sides of the ribs and into your armpits. This creates a bucket-handle effect, with the ribs expanding out, and can perk you up.”
First Thing is a weekly series on HuffPost UK Life giving you tips and advice on how to enjoy your mornings. Whether you’re an early bird or night owl, starting your day off right will make for a happier and healthier day. We’ll be sharing exercise advice, nutrition guidance, as well as ideas on forming new habits. (And no, the answer to a productive morning isn’t just setting an alarm for 5am!)