What are some stretches to do while sitting at your desk?

Continuing our series on ergonomics and helping you to feel better while sitting at your desk, let's look at some simple stretches you can incorporate into your day. First of all get up from your desk to walk around at least once per hour. Movement stimulates the nervous system, helps to energize you, and gets blood flowing.

Upper body stretches:

  • YTWL - One of our favorite stretches! Keep head neutral, ears in line with shoulders, for all positions. Arms above head to form "Y", arms straight across to form "T", drop elbows to form "W", drop forearms to form "L". Hold each position for 15-20 seconds.
  • Cervical (neck) range of motion - Look down for flexion, look up at the ceiling for extension, turn to look over your right shoulder, then turn to look over your left shoulder, tilt right ear to right shoulder, then left ear to left shoulder. Hold each position 5 seconds, repeat as needed.
  • Retraction - Push nose or chin backward to give yourself a double chin. Hold retraction for 5 seconds and repeat 5-10 times. 
  • Shoulder rolls - Shrug shoulders up and hold for 5 seconds, then roll them back and down. Repeat 5-10 times.
  • Midback rotation and lateral bending - Sitting, reach across your body toward the opposite side of the chair and hold for 10 second, then repeat on the other side. Next, reach up with right arm as you tilt you body left, feeling the stretch along the right side of your body. Hold 10-15 seconds and repeat on the other side. 

Lower body stretches:

  • Rock hips forward, backward, and side to side - This can be done seated or standing. Hold each position 5 seconds and repeat 5-10 times.
  • Seated hamstring stretch - Sit on the edge of the chair, legs out straight, toes pointed up. Slowly lean forward and hold 15-20 seconds.
  • Figure-4 - Sit on the edge of the chair, cross right ankle over left knee forming a figure-4. Slowly lean forward and hold 15-20. Repeat on the other side.
  • Standing quad/hip flexor stretch - Grasp right ankle with right hand, you may support yourself by holding onto your chair or desk with your free hand. Keep knees in line and pelvis neutral to feel the stretch in your quadriceps muscle. Hold stretch 15-20 seconds and repeat on other side. For your hip flexors begin in the same position as previous then pull back on ankle to extend hip and tilt pelvis forward slightly to feel the stretch in the front of your pelvis and hip. Hold 15-20 seconds and repeat on the other side. 

Keep in mind when looking at this list that you do not need to do all of the stretches several times each day, although if you do go through all of the stretches you will be pleasantly surprised at how quickly you can do them! I would suggest you try them all and see what feels the best. Pick a couple stretches after sitting a while. Then try a few different stretches an hour or two later, and so on. 

If you are prone to neck and upper back tension, or headaches, you may want to focus on the upper body stretches. If you are prone to low back pain, you can focus on the lower body stretches. 

If you have any questions regarding these stretches or wondering what would be best for you individually, let us know and we'd be happy to help!


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