Well at Work
7 Stretches for the Office
The average office employee spends 28 hours a week bound to his chair, sitting in front of a computer at work, stuck in meetings, and—ugh—working at home, according to a national survey. If reading this puts a kink in your neck, then it’s time to evolve your work routine.
Start with your workstation. Has it been assessed for ergonomics? Many companies provide a service for this, so take advantage of it. How about your stretching habits? Are you doing the same toe touches that you did 10 years ago, or worse, sitting in the same hunched over position all day?
To help you maintain better posture, boost energy, and ease pain, we enlisted the help of physical therapist Sue Falsone. Use her series of innovative moves below to redefine your workday stretching routine.
Start with one stretch each time you break during the day—to fill your water bottle, use the restroom, take lunch, or walk to meetings. Then visit our work channel for more tips to stay active all day.
While no amount of exercise will counteract a daily routine of poor posture, these simple strategies will help you straighten up at work—and even make your gym time more valuable.
1. Standing Shoulder Retractions
Benefits: This exercise combats the hunched-over posture that comes from sitting all day by moving your shoulders back into their natural position. Try it two or three times a day.
How to do it: Stand tall with your arms at your sides, chest up, and palms forward. Pull your shoulders back, squeezing your shoulder blades together for a count of three. Relax, then repeat 8-10 times.
2. Massage Stick – Lower Back
Benefits: Using a massage stick to loosen tight areas is about the next best thing to a professional massage.
How to do it: Sitting tall on your chair, take the massage stick and rub your lower back, looking for trigger points (areas that feel sore). When you find a tender spot, massage it for 10 to 15 seconds, then continue through the area, maintaining steady pressure with the stick.
3. Thoracic Spine Mobility – Tennis Ball
Benefits: No massage stick? Try taping two tennis balls together to form a peanut. Like the previous move, this will loosen tight spots in your back to help you move more freely.
How to do it: Lie on your back with the tennis balls under your spine just above your lower back, and raise your arms over chest. Alternate reaching arms overhead for 5 repetitions and to each side for 5 reps. Think about keeping your ribs pushed down to the ground during the arm reaches. Move slowly, and don’t forget to breathe.
4. Half-Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch
Benefits: There’s a group of muscles on the front of your upper thigh called the hip flexors. When you sit for long periods of time, these muscles become tighter and shorter, yanking on your lower back and ultimately causing pain. Stretch your hip flexors with this move.
How to do it: With your back to your chair, get in a half-kneeling position with one foot flat on the floor and your back foot on your chair seat behind you. Contract (squeeze) your back glute, then shift your body slightly forward until you feel a stretch in the front of your thigh. Hold, relax, and repeat for a set of 8 before switching legs.
5. Glute Bridge
Benefits: Training your glutes (butt muscles) with glute bridges will help take stress off your back and knees.
How to do it: Lie face-up on the ground with your arms at your sides, knees bent, and heels on the floor. Raise your hips up off the floor by contracting your glutes until your knees, hips, and shoulders are in a straight line. Hold for two beats, lower back down, and repeat 8-10 times.
6. Thoracic Extension - Seated
Benefits: Sitting hunched over decreases the mobility in your thoracic spine (upper back). Regaining mobility in this area can relieve pain in your neck and shoulders.
How to do it: Sitting in your chair, place your elbows on your knees and tuck your chin. In this position, your back should be rounded. Keeping your elbows on your knees and your chin tucked, reverse the curve in your back by extending your spine. Return to the starting position and repeat 8 times.
7. Trunk Rotation to Lateral Flexion – Seated
Benefits: Helps improve upper back mobility and overall posture.
How to do it: Sit in a chair with a towel between your knees, with your hands behind your head and your elbows in line with your ears. Keeping your chest up, rotate your trunk to the right. At the end of your range of motion, laterally flex your spine, crunching your right elbow down toward the ground. Reverse directions to the left and repeat. Rotate a bit further each time for 3 reps.
About The Author
Scott Quill – Scott Quill is the Chief Editor of Athletes' Performance and Core Performance. Before joining Athletes' Performance, he was Fitness Editor of Men's Health magazine.