Active Recovery

A Stretching Expert Reveals How Many Minutes of Stretching Each Day Will Offset ‘Winter Stiffness’

Photo: Getty Imags/Morsa Images
Sometimes I think about the fact that squirrels get to hibernate for the winter, and I physically can't contain my jealousy. Forget PTO! I want PHTO (paid hibernation time off). At some point, human beings were sentenced to a life of braving winter's whim instead of storing nuts and taking a long winter's nap. And while I can't change evolution, I can talk to an expert about the best stretches for winter stiffness.

Jeff Brannigan, program director at Stretch*d, a stretching and mobility studio in New York City, knows first-hand how the winter affects your muscles and joints. "People are definitely tighter in the winter in their upper backs, necks, and shoulders," says Brannigan. "Our natural inclination is to round forward and curl in when it’s colder to shield our upper bodies from the cold, so this helps contribute to this tightness. That, coupled with long hours behind a desk and maybe even holiday stress leads to stiffness." No surprise, but people also tend to be more sedentary in the winter months—another factor that could contribute to your body feeling like it's made of cement.

"I recommend at least 10 minutes a day of dynamic stretching to warm up the muscles and loosen up areas of tightness." - Jeff Brannigan, Program Director, Stretch*d

In order to combat this perfect storm of winter of stiffness-inducing behaviors, Brannigan recommends daily stretching. "I recommend at least 10 minutes a day of dynamic stretching to warm up the muscles and loosen up areas of tightness," says Brannigan. "A morning or bedtime routine is great to incorporate as you’re more likely to be stiff from a night of sleep, and it’s easy to remember, like brushing your teeth." To help you kickstart this stretching routine, we rounded up some of our favorite lickety-split stretching routines from Well+Good's YouTube channel. Unroll your mat or sprawl out on your carpet, and let's get started.

The stretches for winter stiffness you need

1. 8-minute head, neck, and shoulder stretching routine

Brannigan named the neck area as a hotspot for winter tightness, so you're going to want to bookmark this brief (but effective) sequence that you can go through at your desk.

2. Release Your Lower Body Muscles with this 12 Minute Stretch

This sequence will help you find some release for those lower body muscles you use a ton (think: your hamstrings, hips, and lower back). You'll move through seven different stretches and spend a full minute on each one to really give your body the time it deserves.

3. 13-minute guided stretch for lower back pain

If your lower back is aching after a day of standing up and walking around, queue up this session for near-instant relief. You'll start with cat cows and roll through plenty of yummy stretches before enjoying a nice savasana.

4. 15 Minute Pilates Stretch For Hips And Hamstrings

These Pilates-inspired stretches target the muscles of your hips and hamstrings so you can feel looser when you return to your desk.

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