It’s no secret that sitting for a prolonged period of time can cause aches and pains in the body. Our bodies are designed to move so having a sedentary lifestyle where we sit for most of the day isn’t ideal. Performing regular stretches for office aches and pains and moving throughout the day will help to relieve these stresses. Sitting for long periods begins to weaken the muscles we need for great posture. When these muscles become weak, we find it easier to slouch and sitting taller becomes a hard task to do. This is when we develop tightness in our body – usually the neck, hips and back.
By Peta Serras, Pilates Instructor, Model and Holistic Health Coach
Constant computer work makes it easy to adopt a forward head position which strains through the muscles of the upper back and neck. Regularly sitting means our hip flexors and glutes will begin to stiffen up resulting in back and hip pain and having you sit uncomfortably in your office chair.
By regularly stretching at your desk when you are starting to feel stiff you’ll have better posture and less pain through your working day. Stretching is also a great stress relief tool and endorphin boosting activity making it the perfect way to re-focus and re-energise yourself throughout the day.
Pick from these stretches for office aches and pains to most suit how you are feeling and take five minutes to stretch so you can power through the day. These simple desk side stretches are perfect to do with the help of your office chair, delivering maximum results to relieve tension in the body.
1. Shoulder Shrugs
Exercise focus: Releases tension through the shoulders
Sit tall in your office chair with your arms relaxed along the sides of the body. Inhale to lift the shoulders up towards the ears. Exhale to drop the shoulders and feel the jaw and chest relax. Complete this 3-5 times any time you are feeling tension in your shoulders.
2. Neck Release
Exercise focus: Stretches the muscles through the sides of the neck and shoulders
Sitting tall, place your hands on your shoulders to ensure they stay down throughout the movement. Breathe out and lower the head to one side stretching the muscles through the side of the neck. Inhale to return the head to centre and exhale to repeat to the other side. Repeat this stretch 2-3 times each side.
3. Tricep and Side Stretch
Exercise focus: Stretches through the triceps, obliques and sides of the body
Bend the left arm and place the left hand on the left shoulder blade. With the right arm, grab the left elbow and pull it towards the right. You should feel a stretch travel from the elbow all the way down the side of the body. Hold this stretch focusing on the breath for 30 seconds. Repeat both sides once.
Target Muscles: Stretches the muscles of the upper back, shoulders and neck
Bend one arm and bring the forearm and elbow in line with the nose. Bend the other arm and place it underneath until the elbows lock into place. Press the forearms and elbows together and feel broad through the back and across the shoulders. You should feel a stretch across the shoulders and back. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds breathing throughout and repeat both sides once.
5. Spine Twist
Exercise focus: Releases tension through the spine. Stretches muscles of the back and the obliques
Sit tall in your chair, with the hands on top of the legs. Exhale and begin to twist towards the right, allowing the left hand to slide onto the inside of the left knee and the right hand to come to the outside of the right leg. Keep the arm straight and press the hand into the knee and notice how you twist further. As you inhale, return the hands back to the tops of the thighs and exhale repeat to the other side. Repeat the movement 6-8 times each side.
6. Glute Stretch
Exercise focus: Releases through the glutes and hips
Start by sitting tall with the feet flat on the floor. Lift one leg up and place the ankle to the opposite knee. Turn the leg out aiming the knee down towards the floor so the shin becomes parallel to the floor. To increase the stretch, hinge forward from the hip keeping the back straight. Hold for 30 seconds each side.
7. Calf Stretch
Exercise focus: Stretches through the calf muscle and Achilles tendon
Start by standing with the feet hip distance apart. Step one leg behind you making sure the toes are pointing forward. Bend the front leg, keeping the back heel firmly pressed down into the ground as you lean forward. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds before switching sides.
8. Quad Stretch
Exercise focus: Opens through the front of the thigh and stretches the hip
Stand tall with a chair or desk in front of you to hold on for balance. Bend one leg and grab the ankle or foot, pulling the heel close towards the bottom so you feel a stretch through the front of the thigh. Ensure the knees stay glued together. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds before switching sides.
9. Hip Flexor Stretch
Exercise focus: Opens through the front of the hip and hip flexor
Stand tall with the feet hip distance apart, making sure you have a chair or surface in front of you for the exercise. Bend the leg and place the foot on the surface making sure that the ankle is stacked directly underneath the knee. Tuck your pelvis under feeling the pubic bone draw towards the belly button and lunge forward until you feel a stretch through the front of the leg you are standing on. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds and repeat both sides.
10. Standing Rolldown Release
Exercise focus: Stretches through the hamstrings and calves. Releases any tension through the head, neck and shoulders.
Stand with the feet hip distance apart and roll forward with the spine until you are relaxed over the legs. When fully relaxed, bend the arms and grab the elbows, allowing the shoulders and head to relax. If needed bend the knees. Hold this for 30 seconds breathing throughout. When finished, let go of the elbows and relax the arms, slowly rolling all the way back to a standing position.
Photography: Bill Delaney