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30-day challenge: A 5-minute routine to make stretching a habit

Yes, just five minutes a day can have positive effects on your physical and mental health.
Young Woman Stretching on Basketball Court
Flexibility reduces the risk of injury when exercising and makes completing everyday tasks easier.Caroline Tompkins / Refinery29 for Getty Images

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Despite how important stretching is for your health, it’s often something we overlook. With such busy schedules, it’s hard enough to find the time to fit a workout into your to-do list, let alone tack on extra time for stretching.

But flexibility is worth making the time for. It doesn’t just reduce recovery time and risk of injury when exercising, but it also makes completing everyday tasks easier and reduces aches and pains.

The good news is you don’t need to devote a ton of time to stretching to feel the results. Start with just five minutes a day.

5-minute yoga stretch routine

I created a 5-minute yoga stretch that I encourage my private weight-loss clients to do daily — and I am sharing it with you!

Not only is stretching and yoga good for flexibility and weight loss, but it’s also good for overall muscular health and body function. There are two types of stretching we will perform in this routine:

  • Static stretching is a longer hold and is found in many Hatha yoga classes. Holding a stretch or a yoga pose for 20 seconds or more helps release muscular tension and stress. This type of stretching is generally performed at the end of a workout when the muscles are already warmed up.
  • Dynamic stretching is more movement-based stretching and can be similar to Vinyasa flow yoga. The benefits of these types of stretches is that they help improve range of motion and flexibility of the body as a whole. These stretches literally flow from one move to the next to help loosen up the body. They are also a great way to warm up before exercise.

I included both types of stretching into this routine to give you a well-rounded stretch that can be done any time of day. Try it in the morning to start your day, as an excuse to step away from the computer for an afternoon break, or as a way to wind down before bed. If you want to couple this stretch with a workout, I recommend using it as a cool down since it does include some of the static stretches that are best done after exercise.

If you don’t have a mat, you can do the kneeling yoga sequence on the carpet, a towel, or a blanket to help support your knees.

30-day stretch challenge

TODAY Illustration

Download the 30-day calendar here.

The reason so many of us forget to stretch is because we aren’t in the habit of doing it. So let’s start small. To help you make stretching a habit, I challenge you to commit to doing this five-minute stretch routine every day for a month. Yes, committing to just five minutes a day can have positive effects on your physical and mental state. You may have to remind yourself about your stretching routine for the first couple of days, but once you start feeling the benefits, it will become second nature.

Until it does, print out the calendar and keep it somewhere it will catch your attention — like the fridge or your bathroom mirror!

Remember to breath

Performing a daily stretch routine with yogic breathing will help more than just your flexibility. Yogic breathing improves immune function and helps with fatigue and stress. If you’re not sure how to perform yogic breathing, use the movements as a guide.

Each movement will be synced to the breath. Inhale through the nose, and then exhale through the nose. During the holds of each pose, you can also continue with this deep breathing while you think about relaxing more on the exhale and expanding more on the inhale.

5-minute yoga stretch routine

Kneeling stretch sequence

Kneeling mountain pose

Start in a kneeling position with your knees on the ground and the tops of your feet on the mat. Straighten your quads and back so that your body forms a straight line from your knees to your head. Raise your arms straight up overhead and reach toward the sky.

Hands and knees

Flow your arms down so that you are on all fours. Make sure your hips are over your knees, your hands are underneath your shoulders, and that your weight is equally distributed between your hands and knees. Pull your abs in and push the ground away from you to keep your whole body engaged.

Cat cow

From your hands and knees, gently move into the cow pose by arching your back and dropping your stomach towards the mat, looking toward the sky. As you exhale, move into the cat pose by pulling in your abs and rounding your back toward the sky. Repeat this 10 times.

Low runner’s lunge

From an all-fours position, step your right foot forward and bend the knee so that the knee is over the ankle. Lean forward until you feel a stretch in your left quad and hip flexor. Place your palms onto your right quad or onto a chair if it’s close by. Hold for 5 deep breaths and then switch sides.

Kneeling hamstring stretch

Begin on your knees with your back straight. Keep your left knee on the ground as you move your right leg straight out in front of you, resting the heel on the ground. Your leg should form a 45-degree angle with the ground. For more of a stretch, push your heel into the ground and lean forward, hinging at the hips. Hold for 5 deep breaths and then switch sides.

Standing stretch sequence

Standing mountain pose

Stand with your feet hips-width apart and your arms straight down at your sides. Make sure you’re balanced, and begin to press your big toes together. Straighten your legs and tighten your quads so that you remain firm and balanced. Squeeze your glutes while straightening and elongating your spine, neck and shoulders. Raise your arms straight up overhead and reach toward the sky.

Forward fold

From a standing position. Reach the arms out to the sides and up, and then dive forward hinging at your hips. Hanging forward with a slight bend in your knees, allow your chin to rest towards your chest. Let your arms dangle. If you’re able to, try to touch your palms or fingertips to the floor on either side of your feet. Hold this for 5 deep breaths.

Half lift

Gently press your fingertips into your shins or quads. Inhale and lift your upper body away from your quads while keeping your back straight until your upper body is parallel to the ground. Release and come back to a forward fold.

Crescent lunge

From a standing position, step your left foot back behind you. Bend your right knee so that your quad is parallel with the mat. Reach your arms toward the sky and straighten your back. Hold for 5 breaths, relaxing the shoulders, before switching sides.

Standing hamstring stretch

Begin in a standing position. Place your right heel on the ground in front of you with the toe pointing toward the sky. Bend your left knee slightly. Press your heel into the ground and hinge forward at the hips so that you feel the stretch in your right leg. Press your hands onto your right thigh. Hold for 5 breaths before switching sides.

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