6 Efficient Stretches for Desk-Job Sitters
We’re always looking for great advice when it comes to keeping our bodies healthy and strong on a daily basis. The truth is, no matter how much you love the work you do, sitting at a desk all day – looking at a computer screen and typing a million miles a minute – can be counterproductive to your fitness goals, overall mobility and well being. We connected with Emily Francis, author of “Stretch Therapy: A Comprehensive Guide to Basic and Assisted Stretching,” to get some insider tips on how to keep our bodies in the best shape and prevent against injuries on the days we’re glued to our chairs and computer screens.
Here are six stretches that you can incorporate into your weekly routine to counteract the effects a desk job can have on your body:
When you are sitting stagnant for several hours throughout the day, your body feels those effects. We want to get the blood and energy circulating and energized. I am here to break down the easiest and most effective stretches for you to do before, during or after you’re sitting at your desk for hours at a time. The series takes about 8 minutes of your time and the results are invaluable. At first glance, these stretches might seem a little too simple – but that’s the point. They’re easy AND they work!
Stretch: The Eyes
Eyestrain from staring at a computer can be the cause of headaches, blurred vision, and loss of focus. There are simple things that you can do to help stretch the eyes and bring better circulation of blood and energy to the eyes.
Scoot back from the computer, or turn away from it altogether. Close your eyes for a moment to prepare your eyes for these stretches. Then, without moving your head:
- Look up and down: 5x
- Look side to side: 5x
Don’t just glance up and down and side to side. Look all the way up as far as you are able without turning your head. Look as far down as you can. Hold the spot for a moment before moving the eyes to the opposite spot. Then move on to these stretches:
- Look diagonal up to the right upper corner of the room: 5x
- Look diagonal down to left bottom corner of the room: 5x
The first few times you do this you might feel slightly dizzy, because we rarely exercise the eyes as well as you might think. But don’t give up! Keep your focus on your chin. Hold your chin in place and don’t let it move.
Enhance this stretch by incorporating “half pigeon” pose: Right knee comes across the front of your body and push up with your arms to get your back as straight as possible. You should feel the stretch in your IT-band. Switch and do the left side (shown below)
Stretch: The Jaw
The jaws often get overlooked and should become a central focus if you want to rid yourself of those stress headaches. Many times without realizing it, we clench our jaws when we are sitting at our desk, working hard to meet deadlines. This not only locks up the jaws, but the head and the shoulders as well. It is when we are too tight in the jaws that we get headaches in the front part of our heads above the eyes.
There is one simple tool that can help release the jaws, the temporals, and the neck. All it takes is one little cork. Yes, the kind of cork you find in a wine bottle, or at any arts and crafts stores. Bring it to work and keep one in your desk. I keep one in my glove box in my car. When I sit in traffic and find myself frustrated, I put that little cork in and release the tension.
Simply place the cork vertically between the top and bottom front teeth. That’s all you have to do and the cork will do the rest…believe me, you will feel it! Try to keep it in place for 3 minutes.
Stretch: The Neck
Tight muscles in your neck can make all the difference in your day-to-day comfort. Follow these steps to keep your muscles agile and avoid those loud cracks that can send chills down your spine.
- Put your hands behind your back and grab your left wrist with your right hand.
- Lean your right ear to the right shoulder, while pulling the left arm down with the right hand.
- Feel the increase in the stretch when you hold the opposite wrist. This elongates the entire side of the neck, jaw and shoulder by isolating the shoulder down. Too many times we try to stretch the neck only to cheat without realizing it by lifting the shoulder to the ear.
- Gently move your chin slight up and slightly down to accentuate the full side of the neck.
- Then, change hands and hold your right wrist with your left hand and stretch your neck to the right. Again, move that chin ever so slightly to increase the stretch. Hold each stretch a minimum of five deep breaths.
Stretch: The Forearms/Wrists
With all the typing and clicking we do, this stretch is incredibly helpful. If you only have time for one, this is the one to do.
- Sit down on your knees and make sure they’re as close together as you can get them.
- Lean forward and place your hands on the ground, fingertips facing your body
- Rock back and forth to get the full range of motion in your wrists
- Use this as a back stretch, as well, and keep your spine as straight as possible
Stretch: The Chest/Shoulders
The doorway or wall stretch will save you and your posture! When we sit in that chair we tend to round our shoulders forward and cause a lot of body tension in our chest, our upper back, neck and shoulders. We do not want to give in to this sort of posture!
- To open up, simply go to the doorway or a wall.
- Place your hands on each side of the wall and walk yourself forward until your arms are straight
- Place your feet hip-width apart and lift up your chin to horizontal. Do not look down in this stretch (which is the natural tendency).
- Hold this stretch for at least five deep breaths and repeat as needed
Stretch: The Back
Similar to the chest and shoulders, your back is affected by 6+ hours of sitting all day and can wreak havoc on your mobility now and down the line. This is a great stretch to do before bed or first thing in the morning:
- Start by laying face down on your mat.
- Legs should be long with a feeling of extension through the length of the toes and spread hips-width apart.
- Bend your elbows and place your palms flat to the ground, fingers spread, hands completely plugged into the floor and have your finger tips along side your chest.
- Push up through your arms and tops of your toes. You should feel an immense stretch in your back and tops of your legs.
Don’t Forget The Rest!
If you are going to go to all this effort to open up your body, you really mustn’t neglect your hips, knees and lower body. Once you have completed all of the above, simply rest in one of the most comfortable stretches that exists: child’s pose.
- Begin on your hands and knees and spread your knees wide apart while keeping your big toes touching.
- Rest your glutes on your heels.
- Bow forward, draping your torso between your thighs. Your heart and chest should rest between or on top of your thighs. Allow your forehead to come to the floor.
- Keep your arms long and extended, palms facing down. Press back slightly with your hands to keep your glutes in contact with your heels.
- To release the pose, gently use your hands to walk your torso upright to sit back on your heels.
Now go on… get your stretch on and share these tips with your colleagues.
About the author: