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Instantly feel better with these work-from-home stretches

By Michelle Rogers, CPT | June 12, 2020 | 4 min read | Healthy Lifestyle, Fitness

woman stretches arms at desk

With the coronavirus crisis, working from home is suddenly the new normal for millions of people around the world. For many, that means long hours in a less-than-ideal chair and desk. Your home office might be the kitchen table or living room sofa. And your back, neck, hips and legs may be feeling the discomfort of it.

While working and typing, we tend to naturally slouch forward and round our shoulders, causing back and shoulder soreness. Sitting puts pressure on the back, causing back pain. Looking down at a keyboard or mobile screen adds additional tension to the neck. Even our arms can ache from holding them in position. Over time, prolonged sitting can lead to a bigger problem including chronic pain and other health issues.

Regular stretching can help reduce stiffness and discomfort. Research has also found that regular breaks to stand and stretch increases productivity.

So try to get in the habit of getting up at least once every hour to move and stretch. Use an app on your computer or mobile device to remind you.

Here are nine simple but effective exercises you can do that target the areas that tend to become stiff and sore while working at home or in the office.

Do all of these movements slowly and gently, with care. Stretch by how you feel, rather than how far you can go.

Only move through the range of motion that feels right for your body. Always check with a qualified professional if you have any concerns about what exercises are appropriate for you. Don’t stretch an area that is injured or painful; seek medical guidance.

Woman stretching toe touch

Forward bend

This movement stretches your back, hips, buttocks, and the back of your legs. Stand tall and reach overhead. Keeping your legs straight and knees soft, slowly hinge forward from your hips until your hands reach the floor, or as far as you can comfortably go. If that is too far to reach, an alternative is to use the seat of a chair instead of the floor. Keep your neck and back in alignment. Rise up slowly.

Woman stretching

Backward bend

If you were working in a slouched position, this exercise will help your lower back. Stand with feet about shoulder-width apart. Place your hands on your lower back, fingers pointing down. Using your hands for support, arch backward as far as you comfortably can. Keep your knees straight throughout the exercise. Hold this position for 1-3 seconds, and return to the upright position. Repeat.

woman stretching ear toward shoulder

Ear toward shoulder

The following two exercises really help loosen a stiff neck. While facing front, slowly tilt your head to the right side. Roll your left shoulder back and down, then stretch your left arm downward. Hold the stretch for 5 seconds. Slowly come back up to center. Repeat on the other side. Repeat 2-4 times.

Woman stretching by looking side to side

Look side to side

Slowly and gently look to one side as far as you can, then front, then to the other side. Repeat 4 times.

Woman doing shoulder roll stretch

Backward shoulder rolls (Shoulder D’s)

Most of us tend to slouch forward with our shoulders when sitting at a desk or working with a computer or mobile device, which can cause soreness in the shoulders and upper back. The following four exercises will help provide relief.

Very slowly, shrug shoulders up; then into a backward roll, squeezing your shoulder blades together. Roll shoulders back and down, almost like you are putting your arms in your back pockets. Think about making a capital “D” shape with the movement of your shoulders. Repeat 4-5 times, and be sure to do the entire movement slowly.

woman stretching shoulders with hands clasped behind her

Clasp and lift behind you

This one opens up your chest, and stretches your shoulders and arms, helping to counteract a slumping position. The clasping exercises also help stretch your wrists and fingers, which can become fatigued from typing or using devices.

Lace your fingers behind you. Gently lift your arms until you a feel a stretch in the arms, shoulders or chest. Hold for 5-10 seconds.

woman stretching with hands clasped overhead

Clasp and stretch overhead

Clasp your hands in front of you, keeping arms straight. Raise arms above your head, stretching as tall as you can towards the ceiling. Release, and repeat.

Woman stretching with arms behind head and elbows out

Shoulder blade squeeze

This isometric exercise helps release tension in your upper back. Place hands behind your head. Keep your shoulders relaxed and down. Keeping arms stationary, squeeze your shoulder blades together, then release. Repeat several times.

Go for a walk

One of the most impactful and restorative things you can do during your workday is to take a walk break. It’ll help you de-stress and refresh. Walking stretches your legs, hips and back; relieves tension and soreness; and helps prevent tiredness.

Walking is great for your brain health, too. It helps improve memory and thinking, and may help prevent or improve depression. Walking and getting some fresh air and sunshine will help you feel better and work better. After a walk, you’ll be more alert and focused for the rest of the day.

Try to walk for at least 5-10 minutes, and longer if you can. Any amount you can do, no matter how small, will benefit you.

Be sure to get up from your work space regularly to stretch and walk. It’s worth the time. You’ll feel a soothing relief all over!

READ: Expert tips for getting started with a walking program