What’s one thing we all have in common? Sitting. Sitting has become sort of an epidemic nowadays, with the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys reporting that 50-70 percent of people spend six or more hours sitting every day and if you work a desk job, probably more.
Americans in particular are inactive for 21 hours and active for only 3. YIKES! We’re no math genius, but that’s not a great ratio. Sitting can lead to a whole host of health issues, that it’s almost futile to even mention, and for now, we want to just focus on the physical repercussions of sitting -- the back issues, the rounded shoulders, the hands that are starting to look like claws. Because unless you quit your job today, you’ll be sitting tomorrow, so why not mitigate the effects now.
We’ve compiled a few stretches below that can help. As a rule of thumb, we asked ourselves have we done this? Would we do this? We all want to be healthy and fit, but we know actioning some habits are sometimes harder than others. Especially if you work in a culture that doesn’t encourage or foster well-being. Just a reality -- hopefully not for too many of you!
Be sure to breathe(!!!) when you do each of these stretches. Generally, we tend to take very shallow breaths, especially in Western society. For these stretches try and breathe through your belly to get the most bang for your lung’s buck.
To inhale, pull in air by extending the belly. Concentrate on the area of your stomach below your navel or belly button.
To exhale, push out the air by pulling in below the navel.
For all these stretches we recommend 3 to 5 breaths, but if you can get up to 10 go for it!
Wrist and Fingers Stretch
Are your hands starting to look like claws? Feeling strained? We’re typing, texting and Instagramming all day long, and never really think about it. But if you worked out your chest every day, wouldn’t you stretch before and after? Not saying that you should be stretching every time you text, BUT you should aim to do a little hand and wrist stretching daily. Since most of us rarely do it, you’ll likely feel improvement pretty quickly.
Stand, place both hands on your desk, palms faced down, fingertips facing your body. To intensify the stretch, lean forward. Hold the stretch until you feel the tension release. Hold for 3 to 5 breaths.
Extend arm straight in front of you at shoulder height. Take the opposite hand and pull back on your fingers. Hold for 3 to 5 breaths.
Another issue with desk jobs is we tend to slouch, maintaining an upright position for every minute of the day is tough! If you are sitting upright like that though, #impressive. Slouching to any degree at your desk will still tend to cause tight chest and shoulder muscles.
Interlace your fingers behind you and place your arms on the top of your chair’s backrest. Drop your chin to your chest. Hold this pose for 2 to 5 breaths.
Hours upon hours of sitting lead to tight hamstrings. The tightness here then pulls on the lower back.
Stand up, feet flat on the floor, bend at the hips (imagine your hips are a hinge) and bring your chest toward. Let your head drop loose and your arms hang beside you. Take 2 to 5 deep breaths.
Our backs take the brunt of the damage from sitting. The spinal twist is a great way to release tension and loosen up the muscles in your back. It’ll help the spine, chest and neck.
Sit on your chair sideways so that your shoulders and back are perpendicular to the back of the chair. Sit up straight, feet flat on the ground and place your hands on the back of the chair. Using your arms, twist, pulling yourself toward the chair -- but don’t force it (this shouldn’t hurt) -- twist enough to feel the stretch, but that’s it -- you’re not winning a medal for overdoing it :) Switch the side of the chair you’re sitting on and repeat. 3 to 5 breaths on each side.
Between all the slouching, the neck craning, etc.., throughout the day, your neck and shoulders are sure to feel it! It is common for us to hold stress in our shoulders and neck too causing even more discomfort.
Sit up straight in your chair with your feet flat on the floor. Bring your chin toward your chest and roll the right ear to the right shoulder. To intensify the stretch, place your left hand on top of your right shoulder and place your right hand just above your left ear. Gently apply pressure with the hand on your head hand and breathe through the stretch, then switch. Take approximately 3 to 5 breaths.
Hip Flexor Stretch
Often overlooked, the hip flexors are a muscle group that like the back muscles don’t like sitting (#TheyGetRealTight) for extended periods! Tight hip flexors can cause your hips to rotate forward, potentially altering your spinal column position and can lead to lower-back pain or making it worse. Chair wheels can make this more difficult vs none, so if you have wheels, lock the wheels or steady the chair in some way (safely!)
Standing up, place one foot on the seat of your chair. and place one foot on top of the chair. Shift and lean forward slightly onto your standing leg, bringing your back hip forward as well. Keep your lower back straight by focusing on your core and pulling your navel back toward your spine. Repeat and hold for 3 to 5 breaths.
This office stretching routine should only take a minute or two at best and your body will be thanking you. Especially if you plan on doing squats later that night!
When you get home?
Child's Pose helps to stretch the hips, thighs, and ankles and it can also help to reduce stress and fatigue which pops up pretty often at work! It also gently relaxes the muscles on the front of the body while softly and passively stretching the muscles in the back. It does a lot.
We took the below instructions from our friends at Yoga Journal.
Kneel on the floor. Touch your big toes together and sit on your heels, then separate your knees about as wide as your hips.
Exhale and lay your torso down between your thighs. Broaden your sacrum across the back of your pelvis and narrow your hip points toward the navel, so that they nestle down onto the inner thighs. Lengthen your tailbone away from the back of the pelvis while you lift the base of your skull away from the back of your neck.
Lay your hands on the floor alongside your torso, palms up, and release the fronts of your shoulders toward the floor. Feel how the weight of the front shoulders pulls the shoulder blades wide across your back.
Balasana is a resting pose. Stay anywhere from 30 seconds to a few minutes. Beginners can also use Balasana to get a taste of a deep forward bend, where the torso rests on the thighs. Stay in the pose from 1 to 3 minutes. To come up, first, lengthen the front torso, and then with an inhalation lift from the tailbone as it presses down and into the pelvis.
So, we’re sort of cheating here, but just get up and move around every 30 minutes. No more than 20 minutes an hour is recommended, but good luck explaining to your boss you can’t say at a desk more than 20 minutes a day.
Coffee breaks? Water breaks? Bathroom breaks? Visiting Jan in accounting? We’re likely getting up throughout much of the day, anyway, but if you’re usually glued to your chair, set a timer and every 30 minutes aim to get up and walk around for a few. Go make a fake phone call if ya gotta! Just move.