If you're anything like me, sitting in front of your computer for hours on end leaves your body feeling tight, achy, and just plain uncomfortable. I've been juggling a handful of larger projects lately, which has me spending long days at my desk or hunched over my laptop. To say the least, it hasn't been great for my posture or how my body feels when I finally do get up from the desk.
I found that I was getting to the point of being so uncomfortable and even in pain, that I wasn't working as efficiently and it was beginning to affect how long I could focus on work at one time. And as usual, that led to me do some reading on how to combat long, sedentary work days staring at a computer screen.
I started blocking out 5 minutes at the end of every hour to get up from my desk, walk around a bit and stretch. It has made a world of difference in how I feel at the end of the day, and even in how I work. I've found that giving myself a little break from the screen hasn't taken away from any dedicated work time, and in the long run, has enabled me to work more efficiently and effectively. I am more focused when I return, and refreshed from my small break. I have even noticed that I am getting less headaches now that I've resting my eyes briefly each hour.
So, for anyone out there that has been suffering at their desk like I have, here are 8 stretches that I do throughout the day that help me remain alert, have better posture, and ultimately, feel better at the end of the day.
This is an easy one you can do right at your desk. Sit up straight in your chair, cross your arms over your chest and hold your shoulders like you're giving yourself a hug. Rotate your body from your waist from left to right gently. This helps stretch out your lower back a bit, so I do it often throughout the day. Make sure to only stretch as far as is comfortable.
This is one we all know and have done many times. I'm pretty sure every gym class across the US has included this stretch. It's an oldie, but goodie — tried and true. Hold one arm across your body and push gently against your elbow with your opposite hand. This helps to stretch your shoulders, which typically become tight when you're sitting at a desk all day.
In additional to the outside of your shoulders, this is a good one to relieve tension in the tops of your shoulders, where the muscle meets your neck. Sit up straight and gently lift your shoulders up. Let them slowly fall back to rest. This helps relieve any tension you may be holding in this area as you let your shoulders drop.
This one may be my favorite, only because my lower back probably suffers the most from sitting in my desk chair all day. Sit up straight in your chair with your feet together in front of you. Place the palms of your hands into the small of your back and lean back over your hands to feel the stretch there.
Another truly simple stretch that does so much with the smallest effort. Keeping your head upright, gently turn your head from side to side, trying to move slightly past your shoulder with each turn. This helps to stretch the muscles on the outside of your neck, where most of us hold tension if we don't have the best posture throughout the day.
Upper Shoulder/Neck Stretch
This is another great one for that same area of the neck and top of your shoulders. Sit up straight and place one hand underneath your leg. Tilt your head away from the hand that you're sitting on and then slightly forward toward your shoulder. Change sides and repeat as needed.
These last two stretches are both for our shoulders and can be done by standing up at our desks. The first one includes holding both arms above your head, linking your hands together with your palms facing the ceiling. Reach as high as possible to feel a stretch in your shoulders.
The second one includes stretching your arms out behind you, clasping your hands together and then gently lifting your arms. You'll feel the stretch in your shoulders and your chest.
I've incorporated each of these throughout my day to keep myself feeling strong and comfortable. It has helped ease stress and helped me have better posture throughout the day, which is so important when it comes to how our body feels. It's also a great idea to stretch your hands, wrists and fingers throughout the day, especially if you spend most of the time typing or using your mouse like I do for my design work.
Even more important than stretching is being comfortable sitting at your desk. It's suggested that we keep our chair close to our desk and to adjust the height so that both feet are fully on the floor. Experts also recommend that the top of your computer screen should be level with your eyes, and about an arms length away from you.
Remember, breaks are good for you! Even though it feels like it can be a distraction from work, taking small breaks throughout your day will help you both physically and mentally, and you'll be thankful you did when you can get up from your desk without pain!