Posture Perfect: Effective Exercises and Stretches to Stand Tall
By: Rommer Dizon, PT
Glen Burnie Location
WHAT IS MORNING JOINT STIFFNESS?
Morning joint stiffness usually happens due to inactivity after a good night’s sleep, muscle imbalances, or more common conditions like plantar fasciitis or arthritis. It is most common in middle-aged and senior people when the weather is cold.
ON TO STRETCHING!
I know everybody loves stretching so we are going to start your morning by gently awakening your muscles through a series of stretches. There are 2 types of stretching, static and dynamic. For the purposes of this blog, we will be using dynamic stretching. One rule we have to remember is to exhale when you’re feeling the stretch. Exhaling will help you relax your muscles more and will make the stretch more effective.
We will start from the head, going down to the toe. Begin by slowly tilting your head from side to side, feeling the tension release from your neck and upper back. Stop before you feel pain as stiffness can get painful. Do 15 reps x 2 sets. Make sure you bend the neck more with each rep. Next, roll your shoulders in circles forward 15 times and then backward 15 times, focusing on relaxing any knots or tightness.
The next exercise is hip circles. Putting your hands on your hips, create circles using your hips (yes! Like a hula hoop, but slower) clockwise first and then counterclockwise. Perform 15 reps in each direction, 2 sets. Next up, reach overhead, elongating your spine, and bend forward to touch your toes. Try doing this slowly as the hamstring is known to be the tightest muscle in the body. You don’t have to reach your toes, as most people won’t be able to, but you have to feel the stretch on the hamstrings.
Lastly, put your toes on the corner of a wall, with your knee straight, bring your hips forward and you will feel stretch in your calf muscle. Again, try doing this gently to prevent any muscle tears. Perform 15 reps and switch feet, 2 sets on each side. Remember, exhale whenever you exert effort. Do these exercises every day.
PUTTING THE NAIL TO THE COFFIN!
Now that you have stretched the major muscles that are almost always tight in the morning, we will focus on improving joint mobility. Joint mobilization exercises are important for improving the range of motion in your joints and preventing stiffness. We will again perform this from the head, going down to the toes. First up, neck rolls! This might be challenging for people with vertigo, so please feel free to skip this one if you have to. To perform neck rolls, just roll your head clockwise 15 times and then counterclockwise 15 times, 2 sets for each direction. Next up, roll your shoulders forward and backward, loosening up the muscles around your shoulder joints. Perform 15 reps in each direction for 2 sets. Next, perform wrist circles by rotating your wrists in both clockwise and counterclockwise directions, 15 times x 2 sets. Now, move on to hip external rotations. To do this lift one leg and bend your hip and knee at the same time while moving the knee from inside to outside and then down to stand on both legs again. Perform 15 reps twice on each side. Finally, ankle circles. Lift one leg up (you know, like the karate kid!) and make circles using your toes. Start with clockwise and then counterclockwise motions, and you know it, 15 reps x 2 sets on each side.
There you have it, folks. Try these simple exercises every day and your day will be a lot better even before you take the first sip of that freshly brewed coffee. Make stretching a part of your daily routine to experience long-term improvements in flexibility and reduced stiffness. That’s not all, you can also do these exercises after sitting for a long period in the office or driving. Consult a physical therapist or talk to your doctor if the symptoms do not improve or worsen.