Some days I feel incredibly old. Not by age or my knowledge of modern music (although my millennial daughter might not agree), but by how my body feels. There are mornings when everything is rusty and squeaky.
You know what I mean: the stiffness and dull aches (and the accompanying growls and moans) that occur after you wake up. These feelings often go away in about five or ten minutes. Some mornings are worse than others, and sometimes I wake up feeling stiff.
Why does morning stiffness occur?
“It’s not clear why morning stiffness occurs, especially with age, but the only common denominator is that it occurs after long periods of inactivity,” says Dr William Docken, rheumatologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, affiliate at Harvard. “This is why you often feel so stiff when you wake up, because sleeping is when you are inactive for the longest continuous period.”
However, any prolonged sitting period can also cause stiffness, such as watching TV, working at the computer, or driving in the car.
A simple remedy for stiffness
To interrupt long periods of sitting, set a timer on your phone or computer to remind you to move around every 20 to 30 minutes. Take a walk around your house or neighborhood, do chores, or even a quick series of lunges or walk in place for a minute.
Another option is the following ABC routine. All three movements focus on the main stiff areas: shoulders, back and legs. Do this in the morning to relax, during your breaks, or whenever you’re feeling a little “old.”
A: arm sweep
Stand up straight with your feet together. As you inhale, swing your arms out to the sides and toward the ceiling. As you exhale, bring your arms back to your sides. Repeat five to ten times.
B: back curvature
Stand up straight with your feet slightly apart. Place your hands on your lower back with your fingers pointing down. As you inhale, roll your shoulders back and gently lift your chest toward the ceiling, arching your back to the point of comfort. You should be looking at the ceiling in front of you. (Be careful not to stretch your neck too far.) Hold for three to five breaths. Release on an exhalation. Do three to five repetitions.
C: Positioning of the chair
Stand with your feet about shoulder width apart and arms down at your sides. Raise your arms above your head. As you exhale, bend your hips and knees and lower yourself into a squatting position (as low as it is comfortable), keeping your back straight. Hold for a few seconds and stand with lowering your arms to complete a repetition. Repeat the movement until you do five to 10 repetitions. You can also raise your arms only to chest height, or keep your hands on your thighs to focus only on your lower body.