Reality check - just how much time do you spend sitting? Numerous studies have shown that sitting for hours on end can have a significant negative impact on your health. Neck, shoulder and back pain are common complaints for millions of people who sit at desks all day, so it's important to take regular standing and stretching breaks in order to keep your circulation healthy and your body limber. Below are 10 simple stretches you can do at your desk that will help reinvigorate your body and combat those aggravating pains that often accompany a sedentary job. Not only will stretching keep your muscles and joints healthy, but your mind will benefit from the break and the increase in circulation!
1. Arm circles
Stand up and extend your arms directly out in front of you at shoulder level, with palms down. Now act like you're drawing circles in the air by rotating both arms in a circular motion, keeping your elbows straight. When you've performed this motion for about 8 to 10 rotations, reverse directions and do it again. This will get the blood flowing to your shoulders, neck and upper back, helping to loosen any tension build-up in your muscles.
2. The shrug
While standing with your arms down by your side, look straight ahead and shrug your shoulders. Hold at the peak of the shrug for about 3 to 4 seconds, then release and drop your shoulders back down. Repeat this motion about three to four times.
3. The upper arm stretch
This is a great way to loosen up those shoulder blades that can often become tense while sitting at your desk. Raise both arms above your head, and then clasp your right elbow with your left hand. Now slowly and gently pull your elbow backwards, allowing your lower arm to "dangle" behind your head. You can rest the pulling arm on top of your head for added leverage. Now switch arms, repeating the same motion. You can perform this stretch standing or sitting.
4. The seated reach
While seated in your desk chair, extend your legs straight out in front of you and then reach forward, extending your arms as if you were going to touch your toes. Hold this stretch for a few seconds before releasing, and try not to lose your balance. Repeat about three to four times. This is a great stretch to help you loosen up your lower back.
5. Knee hugs
This stretch is a great way to keep your lower back and hip flexors nice and loose. While sitting in your chair, pull one knee toward your chest by clasping your hands around your shin, and give your knee a big "hug." Hold it for a couple of seconds and then release. Now switch legs and do the same thing.
6. Wrist bends
Extend your arms out to your sides, keeping them at shoulder level with palms down. Now bend your wrists down, pointing all of your fingers towards the floor. Hold this stretch, and don't be afraid to give it a little extra push, but ease into it to avoid injury. This will do wonders for loosening up your wrists and forearms.
7. Overhead stretch
Stand up and reach both arms over your head, interlocking your fingers. Now turn your hands to where your palms are facing the ceiling, and stretch upwards. Tilt your head toward the ceiling at the same time, looking straight up as well. This is a great tension reliever for the shoulders and neck muscles, as we don't realize how much of our day is spent bent over and staring down (or even staring straight ahead) at a computer screen.
8. Arm cross stretch
Extend your right arm straight out in front of you. With your left hand, grab the elbow of your right arm and pull it straight across your body, keeping it as close to your chest as possible. Hold for a few seconds, then release. Now switch arms and perform the same motion. You should definitely feel this stretch in your shoulder and upper back muscles.
9. The seated twist
While you're seated in your office chair, cross your legs and then slowly twist your upper body to one side, towards the back of the chair. As you begin to stretch into this position, make sure to exhale during the movement. Now switch sides and do the same thing. This will help loosen up a stiff lower back, but be sure to gently move into the full stretch to avoid injury.
10. Side bends
Stand up straight and put one hand on your hip, with the other arm extended straight up above you. Now lean to one side, in the direction of whichever arm is placed on your hip. Stretch your raised arm in an arc-like motion; you should really begin to feel your sides being stretched at this point, especially right at the waistline. Now switch sides and perform the same motion.
Take stretching breaks several times throughout your workday. Ideally, you shouldn't go more than 45 minutes to an hour without doing some form of stretching exercise to stay loose. If you're someone who works out right after work, make sure you go through these stretches toward the end of the day to help prepare your body to go from stationary to active. Remember that sitting too long - even if you workout every day - can still be detrimental to your health. So get up and stretch!