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7 Stretches to Do at Your Desk

Have you noticed that the more you stretch, the better you feel? Taking a few minutes to stretch every day will help you alleviate stress and post-workout soreness. Here are some of our favorites.

By Leslie Barker

Stand up. Right now. Right there at your desk. Because, if you’re like most of us, it’s where you’ve been hunched over, squinting into a computer screen while toggling your phone on your shoulder for the last several hours.

Needless to say, this sitting business is not good for you.

But wait! You may say. I went to my Orangetheory Fitness class before work.

Or I’m running after work! Or I swam laps yesterday! (Or was it the day before?)

That is all well and good. Very good. Exercise works wonders physically, mentally and emotionally. But think about it. Say you worked out for an hour. You slept for seven. You ate for two. You sat while driving to work. You cosied up on the couch for some binge watching. You sat some more to order stuff online.

Which all adds up to lots of sedentary time and not much movement. And being sedentary for too long can lead to heart problems, depression, a slower metabolism and even reduced social skills.

But are these reasons to despair? Of course not. Sure we sit too much. But we can stand, right? We can move. We can strrreeetttch … right here at our desks.

Extra movements don’t merely help us feel better in the moment. They also help us recover from workouts. They alleviate the back pain and shoulder soreness that come from sitting too much. They help us become more mobile and can even increase longevity. Wild, huh? Plus the more we stretch, the better we feel. Added bonus? Making at-desk stretching a habit will keep your bones from creaking when you do stand up … and you won’t find yourself audibly cringing either.

These stretches are easy peasy and will make a huge difference in your outlook and your well-being. You’ll notice. Your boss will notice — what a tip of the workout cap to corporate wellness, eh?

And lest you think you’ll embarrass yourself by stretching at your desk, nah. These moves are fairly subtle. And once your coworkers see how much more alert, limber and healthy you’ve become, and how you never complain about aching shoulders … well, chances are they’ll soon be joining you.

For all but Nos. 4 and 5, you’ll be sitting tall in your chair, with feet flat on the floor and your bottom a few inches from the back of the chair. Remember to breathe, too.

1. Put your hands on the back of your head, fingers intertwined and elbows facing out. Inhale to the count of three, raising your face to the ceiling while slightly swaying your back. Exhale to the count of three as you lower chin to chest and bring your elbows in front of you. (They don’t need to touch). Repeat several times. 

2. Lift your left arm straight up, then bend it just behind your head so your right hand touches your left elbow. Hold for three slow breaths, keeping your shoulders as pressed down as possible. Switch sides.

3. Extend your right arm forward, then move it in front of your body, keeping your elbow straight. Lift your left arm so it’s parallel to the floor, then bend your left elbow in front of your right arm, fingers facing up. Hold for three slow breaths, then switch sides.

4. Sit on the edge of your chair. Keeping your back straight, bend from your hips and reach as far down your legs as possible. Hold for three slow breaths. Repeat a few times. 

5. Stand behind your chair, left hand barely touching its back. Bend your right knee, reaching for your foot with your right hand and keeping your knee facing the floor. Hold for a few breaths. Repeat on the other side. 

6. Sit tall. Cross your right leg over your left in a figure four. Keeping your back straight, bend at your hips over your legs. You’ll feel a nice stretch in your right hip and in your lower back. Hold for a few breaths; repeat on other side.

7. For this twist, rest your left hand across the back of your chair, your right hand on the outside of your left thigh. As you inhale, slowly turn into the twist. Hold, continuing to breathe. Repeat on other side.