How to Build a 20-minute Stretching Routine Every Morning
Sean Higgins
build a 20 minute stretching routine every day

Twenty minutes. We all have it, even if we have to set the alarm a bit earlier.

Why should you practice stretching first thing in the morning? How can you incorporate it into your daily routine? Is there actual research that supports morning stretching health benefits? 

We’re here to provide you with the benefits of performing a 20-minute stretching routine every morning. You’ll also discover some tips to seamlessly integrate it into your morning.

Benefits of a Morning Stretching Routine

Maybe you don’t have the time or energy to do a full-fledged workout in the morning. However, you likely have 20 minutes to dedicate to gentle stretching. If you need some extra motivation to establish a stretching habit, consider these proven benefits:

Improved Posture

Regular stretching can improve your posture — something most adults struggle with.

If you feel like you have rounded shoulders or your head juts forward, putting tension on your neck, a morning stretching routine focused on these areas can help. Proper posture can also combat issues like chronic neck pain and headaches.

Increased Energy

Many people find they feel more energized when they stretch in the morning.

Moving your muscles through a full range of motion (especially large muscle groups like the hips and hamstrings) increases blood flow throughout the body and brain. As a result, you’ll feel more alert and focused as you start your day.

Increased Mindfulness

Stretching in the morning allows you to practice mindfulness. As you hold each stretch, breathe deeply and pay attention to the sensations you experience throughout your body. A little mindfulness in the morning can help you feel more alert and focused and have more patience for the rest of the day.

Reduced Stress and Anxiety

Physical activity first thing in the morning has been proven to reduce stress and anxiety.

All types of movement, including gentle stretching, reduce levels of stress hormones like cortisol. They also stimulate the production of endorphins, which are natural painkillers and mood boosters.

Start the Day on a Healthy Note

If you kick off the morning with a healthy activity like stretching, you may find it easier to make healthy choices for the rest of the day.

Since you already did something good for your mind and body, you might want to make other choices that help you continue feeling your best. For example, maybe you’ll swap a sugary breakfast for one with protein and healthy fats or take the stairs instead of the elevator.   

Elements of an Effective Stretching Routine

You might not know where to start if you don’t stretch regularly. How do you build a healthy routine? First, make sure it targets all the major muscle-tendon groups, including the following:

  • Neck
  • Shoulders
  • Chest
  • Torso
  • Low back
  • Hips
  • Quadriceps
  • Hamstrings
  • Calves
  • Ankles

Aim to spend 60 seconds total on each muscle-tendon group. For example, you could hold a calf stretch for 30 seconds two times or a low back stretch for 15 seconds four times.

Be sure to stretch both sides of the body, too. For example, if you plan to do a neck stretch, perform it on the right and left side to prevent imbalances.

How to Make Stretching a Habit

Forming a new habit can be difficult, especially if it involves a behavior you don’t particularly enjoy (or aren’t used to regularly doing). Here are some tips to help you build a healthy stretching habit:

Start Small

If 20 minutes of stretching feels too intimidating, start smaller. Begin with five minutes of stretching and work up to an extended practice.

You can also start by stretching just one or two muscle-tendon groups. Then, when you’ve made those stretches part of your routine, add one or two more groups.  

Stack It with an Existing Habit

Habit stacking involves pairing a new habit with one you’ve already established. For example, you could stretch for 20 minutes while you watch the morning news or listen to a favorite podcast.

Since you’re stacking this activity with something you already do, it’s easier to be consistent with it than if you started completely from scratch.   

Pair It With Another Activity

Similarly, you can also multitask and stretch while doing something else, like preparing coffee and cooking breakfast.

For example, as the coffee brews, you may focus on your neck, shoulders, and chest. While you boil eggs, you can focus on your lower back and hips.

Just make sure you don’t get so into your stretches that you forget to watch the timer or let the water boil over!

Work Toward a Reward

Sometimes, creating a habit and consistently doing something is easier if you know you’ll be rewarded. So maybe, after you’ve stretched every day for a consistent 30 days, you can treat yourself to a new yoga mat or a smoothie from your favorite cafe.

Find an Accountability Buddy

Do you have a friend or coworker who also wants to make stretching part of their morning routine?

If so, ask them if they want to be accountability buddies with you. Maybe you can check in with each other every morning after you’ve completed your stretches.

Knowing that someone is waiting to hear from you can give you the extra push to follow through, even if you don’t feel like it that day.

Use Technology

Apps like BetterYou can make creating and sticking to a healthy stretching routine even easier. BetterYou helps you set specific goals and offers reminders to ensure you follow through with them. It also tracks progress to keep you motivated.

Start Building the Perfect 20-Minute Stretching Routine Today

Doing a 20-minute stretching routine every morning allows you to start your day on the right foot. It can even help you make better, healthier choices moving forward.

Follow the above guidelines to build an effective stretching routine and make it a habit.

If you need additional help, don’t forget to check out BetterYou. This app helps you set and stick to health goals that matter to you. Contact us today to learn more, or give it a try. 

The BetterYou app uses behavior science to improve digital health and make it stick.

Want to learn how?