6 Stretches You Can Do at Your Desk to Help Avoid Stiffness

Sitting is the new smoking! Have you heard that one yet? Well, I’m not sure that is exactly true, but I would hedge a strong bet that more of our world-wide population has become much more sedentary over the past 10 – 15 years then have started smoking. Let’s not even get into the vaping debate!  UGH!  

Review a typical work day and/or use one of the many wrist devices that track steps, standing and exercise and you will find that without a concerted effort, you are probably not moving around much throughout your day.

So, what’s the big deal? This is our new reality!  Our bodies are meant to move, not sit still. Think about your posture while you sit at your desk, while you eat, while you drive and while you sleep. Typically, you maintain a forward head position as you look at your computer/phone, rounded shoulders, rounded lower backs and hip flexors that are in a shortened/tight position.  And if you are a side sleeper, you tend to lie in a fetal position that resembles the rest of your day!

So, what can you do about it?

First of all, get up and walk around at least once every hour.  While walking, drink 8-16 ounces of water during that time.  If you are intently staring at a screen or in meetings all day, are you able to hydrate properly?  Did you turn off the annoying message on your Apple watch that tells you to stand and to breathe b/c you don’t have time for that?  HA!  Turn it back on!  And respond when it tells you to move by moving!  Taking a quick five minute break away from your desk and/or a quick stroll up and down stairs or to the bathroom can actually help you become MORE productive during the day!  

Below are some stretches that can help you feel more mobile and should take you no more than 3 minutes.

Shoulder shrugs

  1. Bring your shoulders forward and up towards your ears.  
  2. Imagine you have a pencil between your shoulder blades as you draw the shoulder blades down and back to start.  
  3. Repeat 10 times each side.

Chest stretch in a doorway or cubicle

  1. Spread your wings out between two walls or in a doorway, palms facing in.  
  2. Press your chest forward until you feel a nice stretch through the front of the shoulders and chest.  
  3. Hold 15-20 seconds.
  4. You can alter your hand position higher and lower to feel the stretch in other areas of the chest and shoulders.

Seated spine stretch 

  1. Sit at the front of your chair.
  2. Place your right hand on the outside of your left knee.
  3. Reach your left hand to the outside of the right side of your chair and hold 15-20 seconds.
  4. Repeat other side.

Neck stretches

  1. Sit tall in your chair.  
  2. Right hand grabs the bottom of the right side of the chair.
  3. Tilt head to left shoulder and hold with left hand.  Hold 15-20 seconds.
  4. Look down toward knee and hold.  Look up towards ceiling and hold.
  5. Repeat other side.

Hip flexor stretch off the side of your chair

  1. Sit to the left side of your chair allowing your left foot to slide behind you so that your knee is bent under your hip.  
  2. Press the ball of the left foot into the ground and you will feel your left hip fully extend.
  3. Reach left arm up and overhead.
  4. Hold 15-20 seconds.
  5. Repeat other side.

Glute stretch 

  1. Stand on one leg, holding onto desk.
  2. Cross right ankle over left knee and sit down and back.
  3. Press right knee down towards the floor to deepen the stretch.
  4. Hold 15-20 seconds.
  5. Repeat other side.

How can I move more throughout the day?

It doesn’t take much to get a little more exercise in each day.

Try these tips to keep moving at work!

  • Set your alarm on the hour.  Take three minutes to stretch.  
  • Do the following three exercises.

10 chair squats. 

10 Desk Dips.

Climb stairs for one minute.

Repeat two to three times or set your timer for 10 minutes.

  • Park in the furthest parking spot from the front door of the building.
  • Always take the stairs.

Lastly, if you are tend to travel a lot and don’t have time to work out, at least stretch in the morning after a nice warm shower.  Sitting in a car or an airplane can wreak havoc on your lower back.  Lacrosse balls and foam rollers are your friends.  Learn how to use them.  Great resources for recovery type work can be found at www.ideafit.org, www.acefitness.org, www.nasm.org and www.originalstrength.net.

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