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One Exercise Everyone Should Do Before Bed

By:  Kelly Thore Jan 3, 2014
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At the end of a busy day, sometimes it’s hard to really wind down. You spent the last 15 or so hours running around — and, according to fitness experts, you’re likely still reeling from your day’s activities, big and small.

“Everything you do throughout the course of the day builds tension in your body,” says Lindsay Smith, regional Pilates manager at Equinox in New York. “That tension ultimately results in kinks in your neck and back, which can make it hard to get comfortable at night.”

Apparently, the worst thing you can do is jump into bed and hope your body mellows out on its own. This strategy backfires, since your muscles need actual TLC to truly offset daily damage, says Smith. Without stretching them out, you’ll likely experience residual tension in the morning. Instead, she recommends trying a Pilates move called the Chest Expansion, which targets tense upper body muscles and can help release pent-up stress almost instantly.

“The Chest Expansion opens and lengthens your shoulders and neck, which helps improve circulation and releases those kinks you’ve been holding in all day,” Smith explains. As with many Pilates exercises, the move also helps regulate your breathing, helping you feel calmer so you sleep sounder. And it’s low-maintenance — no props required. “You can even do a set of reps right beside your bed, so you can climb right in afterward,” she adds.

The Chest Expansion

Interested in trying the Chest Expansion tonight? Follow her step-by-step directions to ensure you’re doing it right:

  1. Start by getting your feet into the Pilates V — the insides of your heels should be touching, and your feet should fan out to create a slight “V” shape.

  2. Stand with your back straight and tall, then extend your arms out directly in front of you, palms facing down.

  3. Inhale and press your arms backward just beyond your sides, without bending them. Lift and open your chest as you go.

  4. Pause in that position — chest out, arms and shoulders pressing backward — and stretch your neck and shoulders as you rotate your head. Turn to the right, pause. Turn to the center, pause. Turn to the left, pause.

  5. Return to starting position. Repeat the same steps, this time starting your neck rotations on the opposite side. Complete five total reps.

  6. Optional: For a more challenging move, stand on your toes as you do the Chest Expansion.