They say sitting is the new smoking, so make sure you stop your muscles from getting sore and keep your blood flowing
Sitting at a desk for hours at a time can put strain on certain muscles, especially your back and neck. Alleviate the pressure with these easy stretches that you can do sitting down.
1. Simple neck movements
You don't even have to stop typing to do these head movements which are great for your neck. Lower your chin to your chest, and then lean backwards as far that it is comfortable. Keep your shoulders relaxed, and hold each stretch up to 30 seconds, so you feel the tension in your neck. You can also do the same on the sides of your neck by moving your ear towards your shoulder and holding. If you do want more of a stretch you can hold onto your head with your hand and gently pull until you feel the tension.
2. Forearm stretch
This is a great one if you spend a lot of time typing away. Hold out your arms out comfortably in front and bend your hands downward and place the back of your fingers and hands on the desk or table. Gradually push your wrists further away from you and you will feel the stretch in your wrist and forearms. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds, and move around to find new areas where for the stretch.
3. Hands to elbow
Similarly to the one above, lift one of your arms in front of you, palm down. With the other hand pull your hand and finger towards the wrist to feel the stretch. Then hold the same palm facing up, then bend your hand gently downward and towards you with your other hand. Repeat with the other hand and finish by making your hands into fists and rolling them both clockwise and counter clockwise. Everywhere from your fingers to your elbow will feel better.
Read more of our advice for office workers
4. Ball rolls
None of these exercises require equipment, but if you do spend long hours at your desk and your boss doesn't mind you taking your shoes off, we recommend picking up a hard ball such as lacrosse, massage or even a tennis ball. While sat at your desk move your foot over the ball, moving it up and down the bridges of your feet and holding down pressure on any sore points. This will help with blood flowing to your legs, ankle mobility and keep you alert without caffeine.
5. Loosen up those shoulders
Your shoulders will most likely be tight if you're hunched over your computer all day. To stretch them out, take your right arm and extend it straight across your chest so that it's fully pointing to your left. Then pull it towards with your left arm, making sure you face forward the and not rotating your body to the left. Hold it for 30 seconds, feeling the pull in your shoulder. Repeat with the other side.
6. Backs of your arms
We're getting to the stage where your colleagues are probably looking at you funny, but try and get them to join in. For this, lift your right arm up and bend it behind at the elbow so your hand is behind your head. Place your left hand on your bent elbow and apply enough pressure to stretch your upper arm and shoulder. Make sure you sit up straight and hold for 30 seconds before swapping sides.
7. Upper back
This should be satisfying stretch if you're cooped up and sat down all day. Simply interlock your fingers and push your hands away from you, with palms facing together. You should get enough distance away that you can lower your chin to your chest, and try to round out the top of your back by pushing away further. Try to imagine each vertebrae moving and extending as you do it as many times as you want to feel the difference.
8. Back of the legs
Your legs can get tired even if they're not doing much under your desk, so make sure you stretch them too. Slide to the front of your chair and straighten out your right leg in front of you, resting your heel on the floor. Now bend forward at the hip until you feel the stretch all along the back of your thigh – you may feel it in the back of your knee and calf too. If you're at a desk use your hands to support you and keep your back straight. Hold it for 30 seconds and swap over.
9. Do the twist
Without moving your body, look over your left shoulder as far as you can. Return your head to the front, cross your arms to that the hands are resting on opposite elbows, and lift up to shoulder height. Now keeping your body still, move your elbows from side to side ten times. Relax and now see if you can look over your left shoulder and you should be able to go further than before. Repeat on the other side. This is great to release back and neck tension.
10. Full upper body wake up
This is similar to how you should stretch first thing in the morning. Keep your feet firmly planter on the floor and sit up straight, thinking about engaging your legs and core. With your arms straight at your side, palms facing down, lift them up slowly to shoulder height. Then turn your palms over and pull them up above your head so they meet at the top. Then reverse on the way down. Do this several times and as you're doing it try to imagine you're moving through clay or water, adding in some dynamic resistance that will help you engage all your back, arm and shoulder muscles. If you're confident, you can even lean back a little while your hands are at the top to give a small back bend, but be careful.
Extra if you want it: Calf raises
You can do these throughout the day to keep the blood flowing. While seated, raise your heels, leaving your toes on the ground. Raise them until you feel the pull in your calves, hold it for a second or two, then drop them. Keep doing it for as many times as you want. It's like a mini-leg day at your desk.
Extra if you want it: Shoulder shrugs
This is a really nice way to get rid of physical tension in your shoulders as well as any mental strain you might be holding. Sit up straight, with your arms loose at your sides. Then pull your shoulders towards your ears as far as you can. Hold it for five seconds and let them drop with a big exhale of breath. Feel better? You can even do the same thing with your eyebrows to get rid of head tension. Don't believe us? Try it.