8 Best Stretches to Start and End Your Day

By Julia Sullivan, C.P.T. and senior fitness specialist |

Ease into the day (or wind down for the night) with these soothing stretches for a stiff neck and shoulders.

Best stretches for stiff neck

Raise your hand if you often find yourself sleeping "wrong" more nights than not. How about if your favorite hobby has you sitting hunched-over in focus for hours at a time? Or maybe you feel sore from yesterday's strength training session.

Our point? Tight upper-body muscles plague pretty much all of us at some point.  

And extra soreness upon waking isn’t based solely on your daily habits. Your body’s natural engineering is a major culprit, too. Sleep experts have learned that our body’s inflammatory response is typically paused during sleep and is turned back “on” right when we wake. This leads to increased inflammation and tightness right as you’re getting out of bed. 

Stretching first thing in the morning can help to alleviate this tenderness. But doubling your efforts by doing similar stretches at night can help you feel even better. Evening stretching can help boost blood flow, which might help alleviate soreness the following morning, according to a report from the Ohio State University Medical Center. And stretching at night can also help ease stress, some studies show.  

The key to a successful morning or night stretch: moderation. With your doctor's OK, add these eight gentle, de-stressing stretches to your morning and evening routines.

Be sure to move slowly into the moves — never pushing a stretch. And if you feel any pain whatsoever, stop the stretch entirely. Remember, these moves are meant to feel good. Don’t force a stretch if it isn’t soothing.  

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Active Shoulder Roll Seated Stretch 

How to do it: 

  1. Siéntese erguido en una silla, con los pies apoyados en el suelo. Let your arms hang at your sides.
  2. Squeeze your chest to press your shoulders forward, then raise your shoulders up toward your ears.  
  3. Next, squeeze your upper back to pinch your shoulder blades together, then pull your shoulders down to finish the circle.  
  4. Repeat, this time moving in the opposite direction.  
  5. Do this for about 30 seconds.  

Chin-to-Chest Seated Stretch  

How to do it:  

  1. Siéntese erguido en una silla, con los pies apoyados en el suelo.  
  2. Lace your fingers behind your head, then gently pull through your arms as you lower your chin toward your chest.  
  3. Hold for 15 seconds, taking slow, deep breaths.  
  4. Do two or three 15-second holds total. 

Chair Stretch for the Neck 

  

  1. How to do it: 
  2. Sit tall in a chair with a backrest that hits near your shoulder blades, feet flat on the floor.  
  3. Press your upper back into the chair, arching your back so that your shoulders drop down and back.  
  4. You can place your hands in your lap or hold onto the seat of the chair, hands by your hips, and push down slightly to intensify the stretch.  
  5. In this position, retract your chin like you’re trying to create a double chin.  
  6. Hold for 3 to 4 deep breaths and release. That's 1 rep.
  7. Do 3 to 5 reps total.   

Tip: If you don’t have a chair with a high back, you can still perform this movement by squeezing your shoulder blades together, allowing your chest to open up as you arch your back. 

Recommended reading: 3 Hip Stretches You Should Do Every Day   

Chin to Collarbone Stretch 

How to do it: 

  1. While sitting tall in a chair (or standing), turn your head slightly to bring your chin down as close to one side of your collarbone as possible.  
  2. Relax your shoulders—the less tension the better.  
  3. If you want, you can place your fingers on the top of your head and gently push to enhance the stretch, which you’ll feel in your neck and the top of your opposite shoulder.   
  4. Hold for 3 deep breaths and release.  
  5. Repeat on the opposite side to complete 1 rep.  
  6. Do 3 to 5 reps total. 

Ear-to-Shoulder Seated Stretch 

How to do it: 

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Síganos
  1. Siéntese erguido en una silla, con los pies apoyados en el suelo. Let your arms hang at your sides with your shoulders down and relaxed.
  2. Without rotating your head, drop one ear toward that side's shoulder. Go as far as you can without straining or lifting your shoulder.
  3. Hold for 10 seconds, taking slow, deep breaths.  
  4. Switch sides and repeat.  
  5. Next, repeat the movement, but this time, use your palm to gently guide your head. 
  6. Mantenga la posición durante 10 segundos. 
  7. Switch sides and repeat. 

Cross-Chest Seated Stretch 

How to do it:  

  1. Siéntese erguido en una silla, con los pies apoyados en el suelo.  
  2. Cross one arm in front of your chest and place your opposite hand on your upper (crossed) arm for support.  
  3. If it feels good, you can gently apply pressure to your arm to increase the stretch.  
  4. Hold for 10 to 15 seconds, then switch sides and repeat.  
  5. Do two or three 15-second holds on each arm. 

Love these stretches and want more? Try a SilverSneakers LIVE Gentle Stretch (Express) Class! Move your body through a series of seated stretches to increase mobility and range of motion in just 15 minutes. View the schedule and RSVP here.  

Behind-the-Back Seated Stretch 

How to do it:  

  1. Siéntese erguido en una silla, con los pies apoyados en el suelo. Let both arms hang down at your sides.
  2. Keeping your shoulders back and down away from your ears, place the back of one hand on the small of your back.  
  3. Hold for 10 to 15 seconds, then switch sides and repeat.  
  4. Do two or three 15-second holds on each arm. 

Overhead Triceps Seated Stretch 

How to do it:  

  1. Siéntese erguido en una silla, con los pies apoyados en el suelo.  
  2. Raise one arm overhead and bend your elbow to lower your palm between your shoulder blades, as far as you comfortably can.  
  3. Place your opposite hand on your raised elbow for support.  
  4. If it feels good, you can gently press on your elbow to increase the stretch.  
  5. Hold for 10 to 15 seconds, then switch sides and repeat.  
  6. Do two or three 15-second holds on each arm. 

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