Whether you wake up stiff from joint pain or you only have time to exercise in the morning, a gentle workout upon waking can soothe aches and pains and help you build strength. According to physical therapist Maura Daly Iversen, Arthritis Self Management, gentle morning exercise not only helps you build strength, it increases the range of motion in your joints.
Yoga is, perhaps, the quintessential gentle strengthening exercise: it's low-impact, centers your mind and uses your own body weight as resistance. One basic yoga asana to try in the morning is plank pose, in which you rest the palms of your hands and balls of your feet on the floor and straighten your arms, keeping your core engaged. For a true strength challenge, lower from plank into chaturanga, bending your elbows at a 90-degree angle and your torso 6 inches off the floor.
Skip the gym and build muscle with a pair of dumbbells. Choose a weight that's challenging but not painful to lift. You should be able to do at least 10 repetitions on each side. Work your biceps with simple curls, keeping your elbows at your sides. Move on to triceps by resting one hand on the bed while bending at the waist. Keep your elbow at your side, grip the dumbbell in the opposite hand, and raise your forearm so it lines up with your hip and thigh. Lower to starting position and repeat 10 times. Strengthen your calves and ankles by standing on a step with your heels hanging off and gripping a dumbbell in each hand with your arms hanging at your sides. Raise up on the balls of your feet and lower your heels again to complete one repetition.
Go for a walk outdoors or on a treadmill and incorporate strength-training exercises for added benefit. Alternate two minutes of walking with one minute of lunges or squats. To lunge, step forward with one foot so your knee is over your ankle. Straighten the other leg behind you, then lower your back knee to the ground. To squat, stand with your feet hip-width apart, extend your arms in front of you, and lower your upper body as if you were sitting in a chair. Repeat each move as many times as you can in one minute, stopping if you feel pain.
Resistance Band Exercises
Use a rubber exercise band to provide resistance and strengthening. Sit on the floor with your legs extended in front of you and wrap the band around the balls of your feet. Grasp one end of the band in each hand and point and flex your toes 10 times. To strengthen your arms, stand on the band with your feet as close together as you can. Hold one end of the band in each hand and do bicep curls as you would with dumbbells.
Neville Smithson did his undergraduate work at Hampshire College and earned an MFA in creative writing at the University of Cincinnati. Having had a change of heart about his passions, Smithson is now back in Massachusetts, where he enrolled in a combined MA/PhD physical therapy program.