Best Stretches for Office Workers

Sitting in front of a computer every day can wreak havoc on your body, especially since most of us don't have the best posture.

Hunching the shoulders and slumping in your seat can cause back pain, headaches, tension and tightness in your back, neck, and shoulders.

Studies show that regular stretching can help reduce neck and shoulder pain and they also show that regular breaks to stand and stretch increases productivity at the office.

Not only do you reduce pain and tension, but those flexibility breaks allow your eyes to rest and your entire body to feel more comfortable.

The following flexibility exercises are designed for office workouts with an emphasis on the neck, back, shoulders, hips, and glutes. Do them as often as you can and you'll notice less tightness and maybe even more productivity.

How To

  • Set an alarm to go off every 45-55 minutes and perform the stretches as shown.
  • Hold each stretch for at least 15 seconds.
  • Avoid any exercises that cause pain or discomfort.
  • Do as many reps as you can and enjoy!

1
Chest Stretch

Stretching the chest may be one of the best exercises you can do for your body, since most of us spend much of our time hunched forward.

Fo this exercise, you can use a resistance band and take it overhead to get a deeper stretch of the chest muscles. If you don't have a band, don't worry. Just lace your fingers together or take the arms straight out to the sides.

You can also find a doorway and put your forearms on either side, gently pressing forward until you feel a stretch in the chest.

Do it right:

In a seated or standing position, take the arms behind you and, if you can, lace your fingers together.  Straighten the arms and gently lift your hands up a few inches until you feel a stretch in your chest.  Hold for 10-30 seconds. Avoid this move if you have shoulder problems.

More Chest Stretches

2
Shoulder Shrugs

The shoulders and neck hold a lot of stress and tension from typing, clicking, and scrunching.

In fact, most of us probably hunch much more than we realize, making the traps and the shoulders muscles tight with tension.

Get the blood moving through your traps and shoulders with shrugs.  After typing or working for a long time, this move just feels good. 

Do it right:

Seated or standing, lift the shoulders up towards the ears, squeezing them as hard as you can. Hold for 1-2 seconds and roll them back as you relax down. Repeat for 8-10 reps and then roll the shoulders forward.

3
Upper Back Stretch

While the shoulder shrugs will help get the circulation going, this upper back stretch will get all the muscles between the shoulder blades as well as the traps and the shoulders.

Just think how tight your shoulders and upper back are right now and you'll make this stretch your go-to stretch all day long.

Do it right:

Seated or standing, stretch the arms straight out and rotate the hands so that the palms face away from each other. Cross the arms so that the palms are pressed together, contract the abs and round the back, reaching away as you relax the head.

Don't collapse but, instead, imagine you're curving up and over an imaginary ball. Hold the stretch for 10-30 seconds. If twisting the arms doesn't feel good, simply lace the fingers together.

4
Spinal Twist

Sitting for prolonged periods of time can also affect the lower back, leaving it tight and achy.

This twisting stretch will help gently work out some of that tension.  Don't go too far on this - you only need to rotate a little to feel this stretch.

Do it right:

In a seated position with the feet flat on the floor, contract the abs and gently rotate the torso towards the right, using your hands on the chair handles to help deepen the stretch.

Only twist as far as you comfortably can and keep the back straight while keeping the hips square. Hold for 10-30 seconds and repeat on the other side.

5
Torso Stretch

Even if you pay attention to your posture, you may find yourself sinking back into a hunched position, which can make your back ache.

This simple move will stretch all the muscles in your back, sides, and arms.  You can also take the arms to either side to deepen the stretch down the sides of the torso.

Do it right:

Seated or standing, lace the fingers together and stretch them up towards the ceiling.

Take a deep breath as you stretch up as high as you can, then exhale and open the arms, sweeping them back down. Repeat for 8-10 reps.

6
Forearm Stretch

You may not even realize how tight your forearms can get from typing until you stretch them out. This simple move helps stretch those muscles in the forearms and wrists.

Do it right:

Seated or standing, stretch the right arm out and turn the hand down so that the fingers point towards the floor.

Use the left hand to gently pull the fingers towards you, feeling a stretch in the forearm. Hold for 10-30 seconds and repeat on the other hand.

7
Neck Stretch

How tight is your neck right now?  If you do this neck stretch, you'll find out.

Holding tension in the neck can lead to headaches and upper back tension as well.

Many of us drop the head forward when working on the computer, which can put extra stress on the neck muscles. ​

Your head can weigh up to 11 pounds (more if you're smarter!), so just imagine how much stress that puts on your entire body.

Do it right:

Sitting in your chair, reach down and grab the side of the chair with the right hand and gently pull while tilting your head to the left, feeling a stretch down the right side of the neck and shoulder. Hold for 10-30 seconds and repeat on the other side.

8
Hip Flexor Stretch

The lower body also gets tight from sitting too much, especially the front of the hips.

When you sit, the glutes stretch while the hip flexors get tighter. Stretching this area several times a day can help reduce that tightness and, plus, it gets you up and out of the chair, which offers some immediate relief.

Do it right:

While standing, take the right leg back a few feet. Bend the back knee, almost like you're doing a lunge and lower the knees until you feel a stretch in the front of the right hip.

Squeeze the glutes of the back leg to deepen the stretch. Hold for 10-30 seconds and repeat on the other side.

9
Seated Hip Stretch

All of the muscles in the thighs get tight from too much sitting and this very simple move helps open up the hips.

This helps stretch the complex series of muscles in the hips and glutes. It feels great after a long day of sitting.

Do it right:

While seated, cross the right ankle over the left knee and sit up nice and tall.

Gently lean forward, keeping the back straight and reaching out with the torso until you feel a stretch in the right glute and hip.

You can also press down on the right knee to deepen the stretch. Hold for 10-30 seconds and repeat on the other side. Skip this move if it bothers the knees.

10
Inner Thigh Stretch

This stretch doesn't look very professional, so you definitely want to do this when no one's around.

Beyond that, it's an excellent stretch for the inner thighs, hips, and groin.

This builds on the previous exercise, opening the hips and get rid of tightness and tension in the lower body. 

Do it right:

While seated, take the legs wide, toes out and lean forward with the elbows on the thighs. Keep the back straight and the abs contracted.

Gently press forward while using the elbows to push the thighs out until you feel a stretch in the inner thighs. Hold for 10-30 seconds and repeat as many times as you like.

Sources:

Henning RA, Jacques P, Kissel GV, Sullivan AB, Alteras-Webb SM. Frequent short rest breaks from computer work: effects on productivity and well-being at two field sites. Ergonomics. 1997;40(1):78-91. doi:10.1080/001401397188396.

Ylinen J, Wirén K, Häkkinen A. Stretching exercises vs manual therapy in treatment of chronic neck pain: a randomized, controlled cross-over trial. Journal of Rehabilitation Medicine. 2007;39(2):126-132. doi:10.2340/16501977-0015.

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