You're exhausted. Maybe you're exhausted to the point where the idea of doing anything for longer than five minutes sounds impossible. No problem — this gentle-yet-effective morning routine is only five minutes long and sets you on a path for a better, more energized day.
A 2011 study from the American Cancer Society found that regularly doing yoga-type exercises, like the ones in the following routine, helped reduce fatigue in cancer patients. Just one thing to keep in mind: Be sure not to stretch to the point of pain or be too aggressive when performing the exercises below. The stretches should be gentle and are meant to be more of a morning warm-up than a major calorie burner.
Minute 1: Diaphragmatic Breathing
Diaphragmatic breathing, also known as belly breathing, is a simple way to counteract stress and energize your body and spirit for the day ahead. According to Harvard Health, taking deep breaths using your diaphragm encourages your body to exchange more carbon dioxide for oxygen and triggers a relaxation response. Ultimately, this practice helps combat stress by slowing your heart rate and lowering your blood pressure.
HOW TO DO IT: Lie on your back, putting one hand on your stomach and the other on your chest. Take a deep breath in through your nose. As you breathe in, allow the hand on your stomach to be lifted as high as possible without moving the hand on your chest. Then tighten your abdominals to force the air out through your mouth and allow your stomach to fall again. Repeat.
Minute 2: Hip Foam Rolling
For many people, their day-to-day routines have a tendency to sap their energy and steal their motivation. To make matters worse, excessive sitting during a 9-to-5 job can lead to tightness in the hips and can ultimately cause hip or back pain. But foam rolling is a nice, gentle way to counteract that by helping reestablish flexibility in your muscles.
HOW TO DO IT: Sit on a foam roller and cross one leg over the other. With your hands on the floor for balance, slowly move your body back and forth over the roller. Switch legs to repeat on the opposite side.
Next, flip over so that your pelvic area (the crease where your legs meet your torso) touches the roller. Use your hands to move your body along the roller, leaning to one side at a time to massage that area. With both techniques, try to maintain a moderate level of pressure and avoid causing pain.
Minute 3: Supine Twist
Maintaining and/or regaining the mobility in your spine can prevent aches and pains and keep you moving freely throughout your day. And who doesn't want to prevent and combat feelings stiffness and tightness?
HOW TO DO IT: Lying on your back, hug both knees in toward your chest. Stretch one leg out on the floor in front of you. Keep your other leg bent and draw that knee across your body, allowing it to fall toward the floor. Extend your arms out to a T position and look to the opposite side of your knee. Take five to 10 deep, slow breaths. Return to center, hug both knees into your chest and repeat on the other side.
Minute 4: Prone Press Up
Many struggle to maintain perfect posture throughout the day, especially those who sit at a desk for hours and hours during the day. Prone press ups can help resolve this by reversing your hunched-over position. This stretch engages the back muscles to prepare them to maintain proper posture throughout the day. It also stretches the abdominal muscles and hip flexors.
HOW TO DO IT: Begin with your forehead on the floor, hands under your shoulders and elbows close to your body. Press your chest up so that you're looking straight ahead. Squeeze your triceps, back, hamstrings and glutes as you press up. While it's OK if your pelvis rises off the ground slightly, make sure you don't force yourself into a painful range of motion.
Minute 5: Seated Forward Fold
Forward folds are a great way to address both stiffness and weakness. The exercise moves your spine through its full range of motion while gently stretching out your hamstrings. It also helps to engage the postural muscles of your core.
HOW TO DO IT: Sit on the floor with your legs extended or slightly bent. Reach your arms straight out in front of you. Inhale through your nose, and then, as you exhale through your mouth, round your spine forward until you feel a gentle stretch. Hold this for 20 to 30 seconds before you sit up slowly and return to the starting position. As you do this, focus on keeping your core muscles engaged. Remember, you shouldn't feel any pain during this exercise.
- Harvard University: Relaxation Techniques: Breath Control Helps Quell Errant Stress Response
- Journal of Strength and Conditioning Reasearch: The Foam Roll as a Tool to Improve Hamstring Flexibility
- Time: You Asked: Should I Use a Foam Roller?
- Breast Cancer: Flexibility Exercises
- ABC News: Life After Breast Cancer Surgery
- Cancer: Yoga for Persistent Fatigue in Breast Cancer Survivors