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One Exercise to Do Right When You Wake Up

By:  Kelly Thore Jan 2, 2014
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Getting out of bed is hard enough some mornings. But when you wake up feeling stiff and achy, it can be nearly impossible to motivate for the day. According to fitness experts, you can blame science.

“When you sleep, your muscles and tendons stiffen up from having been extended all night, causing you to feel tight and sluggish,” says Neal Pire, a New York City-based personal trainer and Fellow of the American College of Sports Medicine. Rather than sucking it up and powering through, which can actually hinder your mobility throughout the day, Pire recommends a quick exercise that’s simple yet effective — marching in place. It doesn’t take much energy to initiate (great when morning motivation is low), he says, yet it targets the exact same areas that seize up overnight.

“When marching in place, you’re constantly lifting your knees but have to stop your body from physically moving forward,” says Pire. “That means relying on your core muscles and hip flexors to stay steady and balanced.” The more you march, the looser your core muscles and stiff joints will feel. And even better: Since the marching movement gets your blood pumping and elevates your heart rate, you’ll reap valuable calorie-burning cardio benefits, too.

“By marching in place for just 10 minutes every morning, not only will you feel more limber, you’ll actually have more energy to start the day,” Pire says. “Those effects stay with you, especially if you have an office job that doesn’t involve much extra movement.”

The Morning March

Thinking of trying the move one morning? Use Pire’s tips to ensure your “March” follows form:

  1. Start with your feet together, arms bent at your sides.

  2. Begin slowly marching in place, lifting your knees with each step. Pump your arms as you go. Continue for a minute or so to warm up.

  3. Once you’re in a rhythm, increase your marching speed. Continue until you reach at least 10 minutes of total marching.

  4. Optional: As you get into a routine, make the exercise more challenging by alternating arm movements, either pushing your arms forward or pumping them above your head. Another option: Replace knee raises with high knee kicks, extending your entire leg forward with each lift.