Simple Stretches to do while you work

Have you been sitting all morning, so far?

Having gone from an active job where I’m standing all day and helping others move, I’m still struggling to adjust to this new “sedentary” lifestyle. 

But just because you sit at a desk all day does not mean you need to give up the mobility (even if only a little) that you do have.

Don’t tell your boss, but we’re going to be stretching and exercising while working! 😉

I like to work from the feet up to the top of my head, so follow along or change it up if you want!


What you need

Technically, you can always stretch and stay mobile without props. I never tell my clients or athletes that they need to go out and purchase anything in order to do stretches, but it might help if you have some of these things around your house if you want to do something a little extra!

If you have the following, bring them out:

  • A resistance band, a belt, OR a broomstick handle
  • A tennis ball or any kind of ball will do!
  • A sock or small face towel
  • If you really want to get creative, get rid of your desk chair and replace it with a yoga/exercise ball! It’s called a stability ball for a reason!

If you don’t have any of those things, keep reading, because I’ll go over all the stretches you can do while seated in front of your desk, with or without props!


Feet

woman crossing legsIt’s definitely the sorest part of my body. I’ve got virtually no arch in my foot, and many people also complain about foot pain when they have a really high arch. Here are a few exercises that can help mobilize the feet while you aren’t really using them or putting your body weight on them.

1: Barefoot, you can place a sock or towel in between your toes to create a makeshift toe spacer to let your feet splay out. This is the opposite of what shoes do for us. That’s why they’re sometimes referred to as foot coffins!

2: Using that same towel, place it under your foot, and see if you can pick it up with your toes only. Do that a couple times and then switch sides.

3. If you have a ball (any variety: golf, tennis, lacrosse, your dog’s toy!), some light rolling under the footpads, the heels, and under your toes can release a lot of built-up tension and break up some of the fasciae.

If you’ve got more time, check out this source. GMB Fitness has a lot of great resources for those of you who want to up your mobility game!


Legs/Hips

Without getting up from your seat, you can try some great stretches that can benefit your hips and hip flexors.

1. Have you tried a figure-4 shape while seated? Simply cross your Right ankle over your left thigh so that your legs are creating a 4-shape. It will look something like the woman in the picture here, but instead of woman lying on back figure-4 stretchlying down, you can stay in your seat. Try this on both sides, and hold it for as long as you’d like. Just make sure you don’t press down on your knee, as your hips may not want you to push that far into this stretch.

Listen to your body and ease into this movement! You can always try it again later in the day to see if you feel better or worse.


Trunk/Torso

Your spine is meant to move throughout the day. When you don’t move for extended periods of time (consistently), you risk losing some of the lubrication in your spinal column. What once used to feel easy or mobile, may feel super crunchy or painful. This can lead to osteoarthritis, stiffness, and just an overall loss of mobility.

In order to avoid this, here are some stretches for your torso and spine:

1. Place your arms above your head and reach up for the ceiling. Try to keep your ribs from falling forward or back. Imagine you’re dangling from a set of monkey bars (even if you haven’t done this since you were a child)!

    • Keeping your arms above your head, arch your back so that you’re extending your back. Your arms will go back in space, your upper back should help you the most in this position.
    • Keeping your arms above your head, now do the opposite: flex your back. Your arms will come forward in space, and your lower back will help you the most in this position. 
      • Feel free to move through these with each breath you take (ex. Inhale to extend your spine, exhale to reach up to the ceiling, inhale to flex your spine, then give your arms a break).
man twisting in chair

Source: https://www.warrioraddict.com/news/2019/5-yoga-poses-de-stress-work

2. Now that we’ve stretched lengthwise, let’s try a twist! Grab the armrest of your chair on one side and begin to twist to that side. If you can’t reach that far over, place your opposite hand on your opposite leg and breathe there. Work your way up; start your twist from the base of your spine to the very top of your head. Your head should be the last thing to turn to face your chair.


Arms/Shoulders

The last stretch involved your arms and shoulders, so you may be feeling the burn already. Now, you want to focus on increasing the range of motion in your shoulders. Test it out every day. Do arm circles, try downward dog pose, or do some jumping jacks!

1. Desk angels: this is similar to wall angels, but you’ll be seated. Arms will come out to the side in a cactus shape (90deg). Lift your arms up (straighten) and down (bend the elbows), keeping your torso steady as if you’re against a wall. You should feel this in your shoulders, arms, and definitely in yourwoman holding resistance band upper back!

2. Interlace your hands behind your back. You may want to scooch your butt up on your seat so you’ve got space. Keeping your torso upright, lift your hands off your back and toward the backrest of your seat. Take some deep breaths in this position, and if you’d like, feel free to drape your torso over your thighs for a more intense stretch!

3. Shoulder Dislocates: This one is my favorite. Rather than explain it in writing, I’m going to direct you to watch this quick video. This will require a resistance band, belt, or broomstick handle. I can’t emphasize how much I love this stretch. I do it every single day.


Neck

And now, the piece de resistance! The one I’ve neglected the longest and that gives me the most aches and pains! Your neck is still part of your spine, so remember, staying mobile in the spine includes everything from your pelvis up to your head!

Gentle neck circles are a great way to mobilize the tissues around your neck. The one thing I’ve been trying to incorporate every day into my routine is Neck CARS, aka Controlled Articular Rotations. I learned to do this in a course I took a couple of years ago. Here is a great video that demonstrates Neck CARS.

Things to keep in mind: Keep your torso nice and steady when you do this movement. The movement should only be happening in the neck and head!


Conclusion

After almost a year of working from a desk at home, I now understand the pain my clients kept complaining about. Now I’m the one complaining! You don’t realize that your lack of movement can eventually cause pain until you are in pain! 

woman in white shirt stretching in work chair

I’ve been working consistently on mobilizing and stretching, but most of all, strengthening, by staying consistent with my workouts (both cardio and weight-training), and it’s helped a lot with the pain I was feeling while seated. 

Who else is suffering from sedentary pain? Comment below with your tips and tricks so we know how you stay fit, active, and pain-free!

Alexia Palmeri

Alexia Palmeri is a 28-year-old personal development enthusiast! She looks at life experiences as an opportunity to always learn and grow. Alexia is also a broadcast journalism graduate with a passion and knack for communications and media. She is always on the lookout for new trends on social media and keeps up to date with what's happening in the world. In her free time, Alexia enjoys socializing with family and loved ones, being in nature, cooking nourishing meals, and discovering new places to dine and adventure!

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