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How Often Should You Stretch When Working at a Desk?

Time and time again, studies have shown that sitting for prolonged periods of time is terrible for our bodies and it can lead us to developing several health issues. When we sit at our office desk throughout the day, we hardly move around, staying in the same position and using the same set of muscles over and over. We end the day feeling too fatigued due to experiencing various muscle aches and pains.

It’s highly suggested for office workers to take regular breaks. Taking a break not only reduces the negative effects of sitting for too long but also it helps refresh the body and mind. One of the best ways to spend any break at work is to stretch. 

Stretching every now and then can help minimize muscle pain and strain from sitting for too long. Plus, it can also aid in reducing other health issues such as eye strain, bad posture, weight gain, and the like. In this article, we’ll be discussing how often you should stretch at work and what stretch exercises you can do to refresh your body. Read on!

Health Benefits of Stretching

According to the American College of Sports Medicine, it’s a good idea to stretch each of the major muscle groups at least two times a week. By doing regular stretch exercises, your hips and hamstrings will still be flexible even later in life. When you stay flexible as you age, you’ll be able to move around better and reduce the risk of issues such as a stiff back, achy knees, hip ache, and more. 

Additionally, when you incorporate stretch exercises in your day to day, they can help in improving the blood flow to your muscles. They can also aid in improving your posture, calm your mind, release physical and emotional stress, and improve your quality of life. Even if you have no time to hit the gym to do a full exercise, you can still do stretches. They can be easily done anytime, any hour of the day. 

How Often Should I Be Getting Up From My Desk?

Workstation Ergonomics: Take Rest Breaks!

Taking frequent breaks should be included in your daily itinerary in this office. Sure, it’s vital that you finish your tasks at hand, but it’s even more important to give your body and mind a break every now and then. Not taking breaks can be very detrimental to your health. According to studies, those who sit more than 13 hours a day had a nearly two-fold increase in death compared those who sit for an hour to 1.5 hours at a time in front of their computer desk. 

This is why it’s highly important to take frequent breaks. It’s suggested that you take a break for 5 to 10 minutes for every hour you spend at your workstation. You can do five minutes every half hour, or ten minutes each hour. You can practice different kinds of breaks such as eye breaks, micro breaks, rest breaks, and exercise breaks. 

Eye breaks, which are typically every 15 minutes, allow your eyes to rest and relax, especially if you’ve been looking at your computer screen for hours. Micro-breaks are less than two minute breaks that you can do between bouts of typing. Since they’re very short, you can do various small motions such as standing up, moving around, or making a phone call. 

On the other hand, rest breaks are longer breaks that allow you to leave your desk momentarily. You can treat it as a coffee break, use it to take a lap around the office, stand by the window to rest your eyes from your screen, chat up with your co-worker, and the like. By doing rest breaks every 30 to 60 minutes, you can rest and stretch out different muscles, making you feel more refreshed. 

Lastly, another type of break that you can do is an exercise break. Taking exercise breaks allow you to move your muscles more and get your blood flowing. There are many gentle exercises that you can do to help relieve muscle fatigue. Some simple exercises you can do are desk push-ups, leg lifts, chair squats, and more. Any of these exercises should be done every one to two hours. If you don’t want to attract much attention to your workspace, one of the best ways to spend this type of break is to do stretch exercises. 

Additionally, you can also switch up your traditional computer table for an ergonomic one, like a standing desk. This will allow you to adapt the sit-stand method of working where you alternate between sitting and standing every other hour, incorporating more movement into your day. 

Best Stretches To Do If You Sit All Day at Work

If you’re in your office chair and have been in one position for two hours and more, it’s time to stand and stretch those limbs out. It’s vital that you take a break, even just for five minutes, for every hour you spend working. Try doing these stretches throughout the day. Trust us, your body will thank you for it!

Neck Relaxer

Drop your head slowly to the left, trying to touch your left ear to your left shoulder. Then, repeat on the right side. Next, slowly drop your chin to your chest, turn your head all the way to the left, and then to the right.

Shoulder Shrug

The purpose of this stretch is to relieve early symptoms of tightness around the shoulder and neck area. Start by raising the top of your shoulders towards your ears until you feel a slight tension in your neck and shoulders. Hold this feeling of tension for 3 to 5 seconds. Next, relax your shoulders downward into their normal position. Repeat for 2 to 3 times.

Shoulder Roll

This one can help relax your shoulder muscles. Slowly roll your shoulders backward five times in a circular motion. Then, roll your shoulders forward for five times again. Repeat until you’re satisfied.

Praying Position Stretch

Get up and stand with your feet slightly hip-width apart. Place your palms together in a praying position with your elbows touching each other. Your hands should be in front of your face and your arms should be touching each other from the tips of your fingers to your elbows. With your palms pressed together, slowly spread your elbows apart as you lower your hands to waist height. Stop when your hands are in front of your belly button or if you feel a stretch. Hold the position for 10 to 30 seconds, and then repeat.

Ankle Flex and Stretch

Awaken the muscles in your legs by doing this stretch. While sitting in your chair, hold one foot off the floor with your leg straight. Flex your ankle by pointing your toes up and then extend it by pointing your toes down. Do this alternately and then repeat with the other leg.

Middle/Upper Back Stretch

Hold your right arm with your left hand, just above the elbow. Next, gently push your elbow toward your left shoulder. Hold this position for 5 seconds. Afterward, repeat the motions with your left arm.

Back/Side & Shoulder Blade Stretch

Most workers slouch in front of their computer, leading to poor posture. Doing this stretch can help release tension. To do this, start by interlacing your fingers and lifting your arms over your head, keeping your elbows straight. Press your arms as far back as you can. To stretch your sides, slowly lean to the left and then to the right. You can also bring your arms in front of your body or behind to stretch your shoulder blades and chest.

Back Curl

This stretches not only your back but your legs as well. Start by sitting in your chair and grasping your shin. Next, lift your leg off the floor and bend forward by curling your back. Reach your nose to your knee. Repeat with the other leg.

Hip Stretch

Begin by sitting with one leg across the other. Next, place your arm or elbow on the outside of the crossed leg. Gently apply pressure as you look the opposite way. Once you feel a gentle stretch, return to center, and then repeat with the other leg.

Cut down the long periods you spend sitting in front of the computer by doing stretch exercises for short periods, even just five minutes, throughout the day. Stretches can bring a positive impact to your overall health by increasing your flexibility, improving your posture, reducing stress, lessening body pain, refreshing your mind, and more. 

Do remember that if you experience any kind of discomfort while doing stretches, it’s best to seek a doctor for professional medical advice. Stay healthy! 

Tricia Montano

Tricia founded Pain Free Working in 2019 due to suffering from degenerative disc disease in her L5-S1 from working an office job for the past 18 years. She and her team strive on finding and reviewing the best office equipment to help fellow pain sufferers find relief and to enable people like her to do their jobs comfortably.