15 Quick and Easy Stretches to Boost Your Energy

published Aug 9, 2023
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Woman stretching while doing some yoga exercises in her living room at home
Credit: Tom Werner / Getty Images

Level up your next chill day at home with our guide to having your best low-key home sesh ever. This content is presented in partnership with La-Z-Boy; it was created independently by our editorial team.

Sometimes a day of doing absolutely nothing is exactly what you need. Whether your “lazy day” consists of hours of reading, streaming, scrolling, or just vegging out, you might find yourself comfortably horizontal for hours. That is, until it’s not so comfortable.

“[E]verything just gets stiff,” says Chaya Spencer, E-RYT 500 Anusara yoga teacher and founding director of Shree Yoga. Being sedentary for long periods of time can also negatively “impact how we feel and think,” according to certified yoga and mindfulness educator Stacy Dockins. But that doesn’t mean a “do nothing” day is totally out of the question: Moving your body (specifically, stretching) can loosen you up and give you an energy boost. 

What exactly should you do for that pick-me-up? I asked three fitness experts for the best stretches that are quick, simple, and require zero equipment, so you can laze around without feeling too groggy. 

The Benefits of Stretching 

Stretching is great when “you wanna do something that’s gonna energize you,” says Maricris Lapaix, a NASM-certified personal trainer, CES, women’s fitness specialist, and Centr trainer. It relieves stress, helps blood flow, and gives you a “sense of release,” Lapaix adds. Spencer points out that stretching boosts your oxygen levels to support your body’s endocrine, circulatory, and respiratory systems, which she says helps you feel more awake. 

“Any movement can boost energy,” says Dockins, pointing to the embodied cognition theory that the body can influence the mind. “Movement — activating and releasing [muscles] — can … awaken and energize the mind and body,” she says.

How Often Should You Stretch?

Dockins suggests adding in light activity even on your most R&R-filled lazy days. “Our postural habits tend to drive our musculoskeletal balance. If we sit for long periods, the glutes go offline, and areas of the front of the body might become hyperactive,” says Dockins, co-owner of the Yoga Project and author of Embodied Posture: Your Unique Body and Yoga.

Dockins says you should try to move every 30 minutes when you’re stationary all day, while Lapaix recommends moving around — or even just shifting position — every hour.

Holding yourself accountable to stretch isn’t easy. “Everyone has to find what works for them, but one thing that can be helpful is using your phone as a reminder,” suggests Dockins. “Make a deal with yourself that you won’t check social media or email unless you get up and move first.” 

Lapaix has a different method of using your phone to your advantage. “It’s important to put [stretching] in a calendar like a meeting, because you kind of have to train your brain to go for it,” she says. For your chill day at home, it might be easiest to set a timer every hour to make sure you’re moving around. 

But don’t feel guilty about lounging. Lapaix says taking a day off from your normal workout routine (with mild stretches incorporated) is healthy: “People think, ‘I have to work out every day,’ but you forget that recovery is important.” 

Here are 15 stretches the experts recommend trying when you need to perk up. (I added videos, too, for a visual assist.)

1. 90/90 Hip Openers

Do this stretch on the ground, either with your hands in front of you or grounding you behind your back. With your legs bent, move your knees from side to side. Lapaix says this is good for lubricating your hips. “[I]f you’re sitting all day, especially on a lazy day, you’re just stuck there, and the muscles are shortening, so [you] kinda wanna [squeeze] out that stiffness,” she says.

2. Arm Sweeps

Spencer suggests doing this modified stretch while sitting with your back straight on the front edge of a chair or a couch. “Take a few deep breaths circling your arms up to the ceiling, and then back down in sync with your breathing,” she says, “Inhale the arms up; exhale the arms back down.”

3. Bird Dog

Do this stretch by getting down on your hands and knees on the floor, with or without a yoga mat. “[Get] the shoulder involved,” suggests Lapaix. You can also “[do] neck circles, shoulder rolls. A lot of people hold stress in their upper body.” She says to roll out your neck in between movements while you’re in the quadruped position.

4. Bridge Pose

Dockins likes this stretch because it “involves activation and [stretching] simultaneously.” It releases the hip flexors and activates the glutes. Lay down with your back on the ground, and bring your knees up with your feet still on the ground. Press your shoulders into the ground as you lift up your hips. If you’re lacking floor space, you can do this stretch in bed. 

5. Cat-Cow 

“A cat-cow is great for that spinal flexion,” Lapaix explains. “[Make] circular motions with a cat-cow, feeling [it] through your shoulder blades.” She recommends getting your neck involved if you’re experiencing stiffness, and if you can’t get on the floor, you can do this stretch in bed.

6. Chair Forward Bend

“Stand behind your chair, feet parallel and hip-width apart,” says Spencer. When you bend, “[keep] your back and legs both straight, hinge forward at the hips [and place] your hands on the chair back.” You should remain in this pose for a few breaths, and when you rise, keep your back straight (but bent knees are OK).

7. Child’s Pose

Lapaix suggests moving in and out of this pose, rather than remaining static. For beginners, don’t be afraid to take on a stretch in small doses. “If you’re someone who’s really stiff and you’re going through movements that are unfamiliar, it’s nice to move in and out of the position,” says Lapaix.

8. Deep Breath Stretch

Take a moment to invite oxygen into your system and stretch your lungs at the beginning of a stretching session, or whenever it feels right. Similar to a box breathing technique, Spencer says, “Sit up straight, close your eyes, and take three deep slow breaths, [pausing] to feel the effect of those breaths.”

Dockins notes that “shallow breathing patterns are common and highly correlated to the stress response, leading to discomfort,” so deeper, more expansive breaths are ideal to get the most out of your stretching session.

9. Figure Four Stretch

Lapiax recommends laying on your back and bringing your ankle to rest above your knee. When you pull it in, you’ll get a nice stretch in your hamstrings and low back. 

If you want to stretch in bed, add a lying body twist. “I’m really big on the rotation [of the body] because I think that’s a common area you don’t really think about,” says Lapaix. “When you feel really stiff, that’s your cue to take a nice inhale and exhale, and the body will typically loosen over time.”

10. Low Lunge

Dockins calls the low lunge a glute activator and hip reliever. If you can’t do it on the floor, you can work in a chair. “Lunge by standing next to the chair and placing a foot on it,” she suggests.

11. Squat and Reach

This stretch wakes up your entire body and is a useful tool when sitting for long periods, according to Lapaix. “Flowing through the movement will allow you to activate the glutes, quads, core, back, and upper body,” she says. In the move, you squat down with your arms relaxed in front of you, and as you come up, lift your arms up as straight as you can. 

12. Seated Chair Twist

Spencer says to start this stretch sitting “at the front edge of a chair.” It’s similar to a seated stretch on a yoga mat. “Inhale, and as you exhale, twist to your right, placing your right hand on the chair back and left hand on your knee. Breathe in, and lengthen the spine more; breathe out, and twist a bit deeper. Inhale to untwist.” You’ll want to do this one on both sides.

13. Thread the Needle

Lapaix says this stretches your “lats” (the large, fan-shaped muscles in the mid back). Most people do this exercise on the floor, but you could also do this on a bed, as the posture requires you to be on your hands and knees. 

14. Wall Dog

A modified version of downward dog, this stretch targets your back, legs, arms, shoulders, and chest. Spencer says to “stand a few foot lengths back from the wall, feet parallel and hip-width apart. Place your hands shoulder-width apart on the wall at head height. Keep [your] back and legs straight.” From this position, you’ll step back and press your hips back. 

15. World’s Greatest Stretch

Lapaix says this stretch that starts in a plank position is a wonderful way to open up stiff hips while also engaging in a thoracic (mid-spinal region) rotation.

You can combine these stretches in whatever way works best for you and your schedule the next time you need an energy boost. If you’re not sure where to get started, try the following combos:

  • Low lunge and bridge
  • Cat-cow, 90/90 hip openers, and neck rolls
  • Deep breaths, arm sweeps, seated chair twist, seated figure four, and chair forward bend