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Workplace Health – Stretches to Go.

People today (kids included) spend the bulk of their days sitting. Whether it be at school, at work or at home in front of the TV or video game screen, sitting occupies a large percentage of time.

desk cartoon postures

The hours sitting and looking at computer screens or even sitting over a desk doing homework studies, wreaks havoc with our bodies. Some of the issues that arise are: tight hip flexors, weak glutes leading potentially leading to low back pain, rounded posture (or upper cross syndrome) leading to tight chest (pectoral) muscles, weakened back muscles losing the ability to maintain scapular (shoulder blade) health all of which can lead to shoulder problems, neck pain and headaches. This list doesn’t even scratch the surface at the myraid of health issues associated with a more sedentary lifestyle – muscle atrophy, osteopenia, obesity, diabetes, hypertension, cardiac issues, inability to carry out the simplest of daily acitivities – the list goes on an on.

Sitting at a desk or computer; or standing at your work station for extended periods of time can cause muscle tension, stiffness, and strain in the neck, arms, wrists, hands, back, and legs.

What I want to focus on with this article is the workplace and some quick and easy remedies that can help remedy some of the issues seen from daily work at a desk or computer.

It is recommended to take short stretch breaks at least once per hour. Taking frequent, shorter breaks where you can regularly relax and stretch your muscles is preferable to taking longer, fewer breaks. Spontaneously stretching any area of the body that feels tense will also help reduce pain and stress on your muscles

Listed below are some stretches that can be incorporated into any work day. Set an alert with your Outlook Express and take 5 minutes each hour to go through these few simple stretches.

Neck Relaxer:
Purpose: helps to relax the neck.

neckjpg

• Sit or stand with a straight back. Inhale. As you exhale, drop your head slowly to the left trying to touch your ear to your shoulder. Repeat on right. Bring head back to centre.
• Inhale, then exhale slowly and drop chin to chest. Inhaling, roll your right ear toward your right shoulder; exhale while bringing chin back toward chest

Upper Back Stretch: (Also helps stretch your arms, hands, fingers and shoulders)

arms OH upper back
• Sit or stand tall with your back straight. Interlock your fingers, palms up. Stretch arms above head until straight and hold for 20 seconds. Ensure your tummy muscles are tight and tucked in, and do not arch your back. Relax and repeat. Inhale and exhale with controlled breathing.

Middle/Upper Back Stretch:

upper back

• Hold your right arm with your left hand just above the elbow. Gently push your elbow toward your left shoulder. Hold stretch for 5 seconds. Repeat with your left arm.

Ankle Flex and Stretch: (this will stretch & work your thigh muscles, ankles, and calf muscles)

iankle stretchjpg

• Hold one foot off the floor with your leg straight. Alternately flex your ankle (point your toes up) and extend (point your toes down). Repeat with the other leg.

Wrist Flexor Stretch:

wrist extensor

With assistance of the left hand, gently draw the fingers on the right hand up towards the ceiling and then gradually straighten elbow while maintaining a stretch on the wrist.

Wrist Extensor Stretch:
wrist extensorjpg

With assistance of the left hand, gently bend the wrist so that the fingers are pointing down towards the floor and gradually straighten the elbow while maintaining a stretch on the wrist.

Foam Roll Shoulder Stretch:

foam shoulder stretch

This stretch is a great way to alleviate tightness through the chest and shoulders. Lay lengthwise on the foam roller. Ensure that you can rest your head comfortably on the roller. Keep your knees bent. Lay your arms out to the side with palms up. Relax and enjoy the stretch for 1-2 minutes. To get up, slowly roll off the foam onto the floor and rise slowly from this position.

In addition to taking short breaks from sitting, proper office ergonomics — including correct chair height, adequate equipment spacing and good desk posture — can help you stay comfortable at work. There is a great guide on the Mayo Clinic web site. I encourage you to go and take look and possibly make some changes to your own office. Make sure you hover over each circle in the picture – it will give you good hints on how to make your office space more ergonomically friendly and lessen the impact your work day has on your overall health and wellbeing.

Office ergonomics: Your how-to guide

Till next time,
Narina

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