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Want to make the most out of your 5-minute break? Peer-reviewed studies show that regular stretching at work, even with just a simple neck stretch or reaching out with your arms, can make a huge difference. It has been linked to reduced fatigue, an improved posture, and even boosted productivity levels. Some sources state that lack of stretching even leads to weight gain.
Simply moving one’s body is also a great way to let go of stress and anxiety, grounding our mind into our physical form. In the practice of yoga, stretching is paired with breathing exercises in order to increase focus and lift your mood.
These seemingly ordinary movements actually help keep us at our best selves whether we’re in front of a desk, at a gym, or at home. Stretching even keeps the blood moving throughout our entire system. It’s also a convenient way to do so because stretching rarely requires any external equipment and you can pretty much do it whenever and wherever you are.
What Are Some Good Stretches to Do Before Work?
It’s never too early to get a stretch in! Moving your body can help clear your head, reduce stress, and condition your body to perform at its best. To start your day off right, here are a few simple yoga poses you can do:
This yoga pose involves getting on all fours on your yoga mat, then slowly pushing your body back and sitting on your feet. Without moving your legs, reach your upper body across the mat with your arms and head forward. This is a great starting stretch especially if you have a whole day of working at a desk ahead of you.
This is another pose that requires you to be on the floor. Start on all fours with your arms parallel to your shoulder and your knees hip-width apart. Inhale then slowly move your head up while curving your back down to the floor. Exhale by arching your back as you slowly lower your head. Repeat the movements five times.
Stand up tall, arms extended and stretching upward. Then, slowly roll your body down to the floor until you’re bending at the hips with your knees straight and feet flat on the floor. Place your hands on the floor if you can. Engage your quads and keep each knee straight as you try to bend further. Repeat as often as necessary until you feel your hamstrings and hips opened up. If you can, sink a few inches deeper for a better stretch.
This downward dog is an excellent full-body stretch that lets you release tension in your shoulders all the way to your chest, arm muscles, and legs. Start by standing straight then moving into a forward bend. Hold on to the floor with your fingers outstretched, bending each knee if necessary. Slowly move one leg outward behind you with the other leg following suit. You should now be forming a triangle shape with your head still lowered. Pushing at the hands, try to keep your lower back as straight as possible.
If you’re unable to keep your heels flat on the ground, try alternating between bending one knee and the other. Keep alternating from right knee to left knee at a quick pace.
What Stretches Can I Do While Sitting at My Desk?: Upper Body Stretches
Another benefit of stretching is that you can pretty much do it sitting in a chair or standing. Many of these movements we already do instinctively when we feel our joints setting in. An example of this is arching our back when we feel it’s in pain, or rolling out the knots in our neck.
If you want a quick and easy way to release tension, here are some stretches you can do while sitting at your desk:
Feel your shoulder blades cramping up at your desk? Try this simple exercise: stretch one arm to the side across your body. Pull the arm closer to your chest with the opposite hand until you feel a nice stretch. Hold the pose for 30 seconds, then repeat it with the other side. Make sure the opposite hand is gently pulling the arm for a better stretch.
Overhead Tricep Stretch
This is another stretch exercise you can do sitting on a chair that will target your shoulders and your chest area. Sit tall in your chair, slowly extending your left arm overhead, then bending it at the elbow to bring the left hand closer to the center of the back or to the opposite shoulder blade. Gently pull your elbow down using your other hand to apply pressure. Hold the stretch for half a minute, then switch sides and repeat.
Upper Back Stretch
Sit straight on your chair. With your arms straight out in front of you, clasp one hand on top of the other. Without leaving your desk chair, gently lean forward until you feel a nice upper back stretch. Extend your head forward and down to increase the stretch. This is a great exercise to release shoulder and back pain. You may hold the pose or repeat the movement as often as necessary.
Seated Spinal Rotation
Sit tall in your chair, hips square, and feet flat on the floor. Gently lift one arm and place it on the opposite side thigh. With your legs still facing forward, twist your body to the side with the other hand on your thigh pushing on your lower body. Repeat the stretch with the other side. For an even deeper stretch, do this with one leg crossed over the other leg. If the right leg is on top, twist your torso to the right, and vice versa. The exercise targets your shoulders and chest, too.
What Are 5 Stretching Exercises?
Of course, there are plenty of stretches you can also do standing up. These target your leg muscles, hips, quads, and even your upper back and shoulder blades. Whether you have a sit-stand desk or a fixed-height one, here are some simple ones you can do during your 5-minute break at work.
1. Hip Opener
Did you know that sitting in a chair for hours on end can tighten your lower back, hips, and hamstrings? It’s important to stretch these parts out in order to prevent muscle pain, or worse, injury. This seated stretch opens up both your lower back and hips.
To start, sit at the edge of your chair, feet hip-width apart and forming a straight line to your knees. Lift one foot and place it over the opposite knee with your ankle resting on top. Gently lean forward as far as you can until you feel a stretch along the hip area. Do the same with the other side, crossing one foot over the other knee.
2. Twisted Hip Opener
This exercise adds more to a simple hip opener. Sit at the edge of your seat. Follow the same steps as above, crossing one foot over the opposite knee. Instead of leaning forward, lean to one side with one hand, holding onto the chair for balance.
If your left foot is crossed over your right knee, your right arm and right hand should be stretching over to the other side. Keep one hand on the chair or leg and the other reaching out to the floor for an intense stretch. Repeat the twist on the other side.
3. Modified Forward Fold
Similar to the exercise we mentioned earlier, you can also try a forward fold with a modification that is more office-friendly. This hamstring stretch opens your lower back and your back leg muscles, too.
Start by standing in front of a chair. With your fingers clasped around your elbows, slowly lean forward, bending at the hips until your arms are touching the back of the chair. Stay in this position until you feel a nice stretch all the way from your hamstrings to your arms, upper back, and shoulders. For an even deeper stretch, keep going until your arms are resting on the seat. You may bend your knees if necessary.
4. Open Shoulders
This stretch requires you leave your desk and go to the nearest wall. Extending your left arm, place your left hand on the wall, then slowly face the opposite direction. To stretch your wrist, simply twist your arm until your fingers are pointed behind you. Repeat with the opposite side, and you’re good to go!
5. Half Downward Dog
Another modified version of a yoga pose we’ve mentioned above, the half-downward dog is a great hip and hamstring opening stretch that also targets other muscles. Start by standing tall with your feet flat on the floor and a little more than hip-width apart. Instead of getting down on the floor to do the stretch, simply hold onto the back of a chair or the seat for balance.
Try these desk stretches and watch your work life vastly improve. We hope this guide is able to help you increase productivity and reduce minor aches and pains. Remember, if you’re already experiencing serious chronic pain in certain areas, it’s best to seek professional medical advice as soon as possible.