Working in front of a computer five days a week can have severe consequences for your body. Repetitive motion, poor posture and staying in the same position for hours can all cause or worsen musculoskeletal disorders, especially if you don’t have an ergonomic set-up. Studies show that regular stretching can help reduce or prevent back pain, neck pain, shoulder pain, headaches, tension and tightness in your back, neck and shoulders.
Regular breaks to exercise and stretch also increase blood flow and help boost energy and productivity. Set an alarm to go off every 45 minutes to an hour. At these intervals, get up for a quick walk around and perform the stretches outlined below. Avoid any exercises or stretches that cause pain or discomfort.
Stretching the chest and shoulders is one of the most important exercises for office workers, since many of us spend our time working at a desk hunched forward. While seated or standing, take your arms behind you and lace your fingers together if you can. Straighten the arms and gently lift your hands up a few inches until you feel your chest stretch. Hold for 10 to 30 seconds. Avoid this stretch if you have shoulder problems. You can also place your forearms on either side of a doorway, gently leaning forward until you feel a stretch in the chest.
Shoulder and Neck Stretch
Our neck and shoulders hold a lot of stress and tension from typing, clicking and scrolling. Most of us hunch much more than we realise, straining and tightening the trapezius and other shoulder muscles tight. Get the blood moving through your shoulders with shrugs. While sitting or standing, lift the shoulders up towards the ears, squeezing them as hard as you can. Hold for a couple of seconds and roll them back as you relax down. Repeat 8 to 10 times and then roll the shoulders forward.
Upper Back Stretch
It’s also important to stretch all the muscles between the shoulder blades through upper back stretches. While sitting or standing, extend your arms straight out and rotate the hands so that the palms face away from each other. Cross your arms so that your palms are pressed together, contract your abs and round the back, reaching away as you relax your head. Imagine you’re curving up and over an imaginary ball. Hold the stretch for 10 to 30 seconds. If twisting your arms is uncomfortable or painful, lace your fingers together instead.
Lower Back Stretch
Lower back pain is one of the most common issues related to sitting for prolonged periods of time, causing it to become tight and achy. A spinal twist stretch will help gently work out some of that tension. In a seated position with your feet flat on the floor, contract your abs and gently rotate your torso towards the right. Don’t go too far as you only need to rotate a little to feel this stretch. Use your hands on the armrest or seat of the chair to deepen the stretch. Only twist as far as you comfortably can and keep your back straight and hips square. Hold for 10 to 30 seconds and repeat on the other side.
The lower body also gets tight from prolonged, especially the front of the hips. While sitting, your glutes stretch while your hip flexors are shortened, leading to tightness. Stretching this area a few times a day can help reduce that tightness. It also gets you up and out of the chair, which offers immediate relief.
While standing, take your right leg back a few feet. Bend your back knee like you’re doing a lunge and then lower both knees until you feel a stretch in the front of your right hip. Squeeze the glutes of the back leg to deepen the stretch. Hold for 10 to 30 seconds and repeat on the left.
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