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Don't get up, just stretch out

by Josh Wakerman on Friday 30 June 2017



You might not be a couch potato, but have you considered your job could be turning you into a 9-5 desk potato?

Fortunately, there are plenty of beneficial stretches that can get the blood flowing and keep you feeling great.   

We all know that prolonged periods of sitting still has adverse effects on health. It’s even linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer. Even if you hit the gym every morning before work, long daily stints of remaining stationary can still have an impact on your health. 

If your job requires you to sit for long periods, it’s important to break up the amount of time you stay seated in one stretch. Alternating between sitting and standing can be helpful, but when it comes to your overall health, actual movement is far more essential. 

Any movement at all, even doing a few laps of the office every couple of hours, reduces the cumulative effects of prolonged sitting - burning calories, boosting energy levels and relieving the stress on our joints and muscles. 

On top of this, try to incorporate some dedicated exercise, or stretches,  into your work day, even if you can only manage a few sneaky ‘deskcerises’ - preferably at the start, middle and end of your day (yes, we made that word up, and yes, we know it’s brilliant).

So here are some useful stretches you can put together for an office chair session - without your co-workers thinking that you’ve finally lost-the-plot! 

1.      Neck and shoulder stretch

Hunching at your desk can strain the cervical spine and stiffen shoulders. 

Relieve the strain by stretching your arms straight behind you. Keeping head and spine neutral, interlock your fingers with palms face up, and roll your shoulders back and push your chest out. Lift your arms for an extra stretch but maintain that nice neutral spine. You should feel this stretch in your, upper arms, chest and shoulders. 

2.      Neck stretch

Staring at a screen all day causing a neck ache?  

Loosen up by leaning your head forward and slowly turning your neck to one side. Hold for 10 seconds then do the other side. Do this three times in each direction. Then lift you head back to neutral and lift (but never bend the neck back beyond neutral).  

3.      Overhead Stretch

To do this upper back stretch, extend one arm straight up, keeping your head and spine neutral, and then reach to the opposite side. Hold for 10 to 30 seconds, then repeat on the other side. 

4.      Back of the legs 

A less than ideal posture could be reducing the ability for blood to circulate properly, especially in the legs. 
To stretch the legs effectively while staying seated, extend your legs out straight and reach down towards your toes and hold for 30 seconds. Point and flex your toes or for an extra stretch, again keeping a neutral head and flat spine, but don’t over stretch. 

5.      Wrist stretch

This one is especially for the keyboard warriors. Super important for preventing RSI.
Stand up and place your palms face down on the desk, wrists facing away from you, slowly walk forward keeping palms flat on the desk applying pressure until you feel a stretch, hold for a few seconds. Follow with some wrist circles, slow one way and then the other. 

6.      Hip and knee stretch

Keeping your back as straight as possible and head neutral, lift and hug one knee at a time, pulling it in towards your chest. Hold the pose for 20 to 30 seconds, then alternate knees. 

7.       Torso stretch

Keep your feet firmly on the ground, facing forward, and shoulder width apart. Put both arms out directly in front of you and links fingers with thumbs up. Twist your upper body in one direction, maintaining a neutral spine and head. Hold for 10 to 30 seconds at your full rotation point, then repeat on the other side. 

8.       Hip stretch

Sit in the middle of your chair with your feet flat on the floor, shoulder width apart. Place one ankle on the opposite knee and sit tall. Maintaining a straight back and neutral head, tilt forward at the waist until you feel a stretch. 

9.       Spinal twist

This dynamic stretch helps to maintain flexibility in your spine. 

Stay seated with your knees together and place your left hand on your right knee. Keeping back and head neutral, twist your entire upper body to one side, hold for one second, then twist back and repeat on the other side. Repeat 5 times on each side allowing your head to follow your shoulders, looking ahead at all times.

So there you have it. There’s no excuse now to not do at least 5 mins of stretching every hour while at your desk. Your body – and mind – will thank you for it later.

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