Healthy Body

5 One-Minute Stretches To Energize You Throughout the Day—and Help You Sleep at Night

Mary Grace Garis

Photo: Getty Images/Shih Wei
This isn’t your standard New Year’s plan. No restrictive diets, no weekly weigh-ins, no “whole new you” for this new year—because, hey, you’re pretty great already. These four expert-led plans—designed to help you move your body, eat more veggies, get a better night’s sleep, or show yourself some loving care—are all about developing healthy habits that better align with your goals. Get the Program

Many of us are spending more time at home than ever during the pandemic, and we’re also moving quite a bit less than we did in our pre-pandemic lives. After all, there are fewer places to go, fewer things to do, and fewer people to see. Though we might be exerting less physical energy, many of us still feel physically exhausted. Despite that sense of tiredness, high-quality sleep feels is still very much out of reach for many. One reason why? Not moving an optimum amount during the day can result in feeling fatigued during the day and restless at night. Thankfully, one answer to this problem is simple (and doesn’t mean you need to take up marathon running on a whim). That is, in order to work some simple movement into your day, consider learning some easy stretches for better sleep.

“Maintaining a lifestyle that incorporates sufficient sleep and regular physical activity, including stretching, is essential for promoting physical health and emotional well-being,” says Teofilo L. Lee-Chiong Jr, MD, pulmonologist and chief medical liaison for sleep and respiratory care at Philips. “Regular exercise improves both subjective and objective measures of sleep, including sleep quality, sleep duration, and sleep continuity. It has been shown to alleviate sleep disturbance related to insomnia and obstructive sleep apnea.”

He also points out that timing of when you sleep is important for deciding when to exercise and stretch and, perhaps more crucially, when not to. “Time for physical activity should not be at the expense of time available for sleep,” Dr. Lee-Chiong says. “Activation of the sympathetic nervous system during exercise close to bedtime may also affect subsequent sleep propensity. Moderate-to-high intensity exercise should, therefore, preferably be performed earlier in the day.”

Or, you can just keep things quick and simple by sticking to low-intensity movements like stretching, and performing them throughout the day. It’s a low-risk, high-reward ask that rewards you with a night of rest—so what are you waiting for? Use the following five quick stretches for better sleep to do during the day, outlined below.

5 lightning-fast stretches for better sleep to weave into your day

1. Chest opener

If you’re clocking a lot of couch time and feeling the rickety results, different kinds of moves will be best, depending on the way you sit. But Jeff Brannigan, program director at Stretch*d, suggests chest-opening stretches for anyone who is spending way too much time hunched over, which is…most of us. Get ready to relieve those back, hip, and knee strains.

2. Yogic stretches

Courtesy of certified yoga instructor Beth Cooke, this quickie stretch routine will help you unwind after a run, or just get your body in flow during a day of mostly stillness. You’ll smoothly go from down dog to a low lunge to a modified pyramid pose, and then some…in very short amount of time. The whole flow clocks in at more than a minute, but if you’re trying to squeeze in a session between meetings, you can modify the practice to be shorter.

3. Child’s pose with shoulder flexion

This quick stretch is a treat for your thoracic spine from personal trainer Shelby Smith. To do it, begin in a classic child’s pose, with your knees out wide, your hips sunk back in between them, and your arms extended over your head on the floor. Then, turn your palms to face each other so that your thumbs are pointed up to the sky, and slowly raise and lower one arm at a time. This can be done in intervals of 30 seconds to a minute—and feel free to cycle rounds, if you want!

4. Full-Body Stretch Routine

To do this full-body stretch, Le Sweat founder Charlee Atkins recommends using a lacrosse ball to help you massage and lift your spine, ultimately giving a solid stretch to your the hips, back, and shoulders a much-needed, low stress workout.

5. Neck Circles

I know we said to be mindful not to exercise before bed, but this is the glorious exception to the rule. Here, fitness instructor Alicia Archer shares a full low-intensity, ultra-soothing cool-down routine for a better night’s sleep. If you’re pressed for time, the neck circles are easy to add to the end of the day for just a minute. Make sure to breathe deeply into each rotation.

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