Sitting All Day? Do these 5 Stretches Every Morning
Learning more about daily stretches for office workers might just feel like another addition to your already full to-do list. In some ways it is, but the benefits will pay off and make it well worth your quick, intentional time to take care of your body. There are plenty of stretches for sitting at a desk all day, and rotating through the options isn’t a bad idea. But when your day goes by quickly and you’ve barely taken your lunch, there’s still something you can do to give yourself (and your body) a break from the seated, bad-for-your-back daily grind.
As of 2021, Statistics Canada surveyed that 32% of Canadian employees aged 15 - 69 worked most of their hours from home, compared with only 4% in 2016. The digital era of work is upon us, and it is causing a lot of… sitting. It is also a true testament to the malleability of our bodies and brains, as we start to adjust to this new reality of remote work and sedentary workdays. If you’ve noticed that your body is a little more stiff lately, you’re not alone.
Sitting all day can have a significant impact on your body and overall health, both mental and physical. According to the Mayo Clinic, health concerns linked to sitting all day include increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, increased risk of cardiovascular disease, and more. Research continues to link sitting all day with a number of health concerns, and things like daily stretching or even working while standing can mediate these risks. Movement is essential for our bodies and minds, and the impact of movement, even leisurely movement like stretching, is profound.
Introducing a daily stretching routine is a great place to start if you’re finding yourself stagnant and perpetually sitting for work. Stretching can help mitigate pain symptoms and maintain overall health and wellness while working. Whether you’re in an office, trying to carve out 15 minutes of “me-time” during your work-from-home day, or just desperately trying to keep up with a little bit of movement while you’re busy with work, here are 5 stretches for sitting all day that can be easily built into your 9-5:
1 | Torso Stretch
Image credit: Popsugar
This is an easy one to sneak in for a few seconds even on your busiest work days. You can stay seated, take a few deep breaths, and do this a few times a day when you have a quick moment. Start by sitting (or standing if you want) upright and lengthening your spine and torso, keeping good posture in mind. Interlock your fingers and reach your arms above your head, then gently lean from side to side. Lean farther each way if you want a more intense stretch.
2 | Side Neck Stretch
Another simple one that you can do while seated, this stretch is great for those who hunch over their laptops all day. You may not realize it, but your neck can be greatly affected by lengthy computer work. Start by sitting with good posture and reach one hand over your head to cup the opposite ear. Gently pull your neck towards the same side as the arm in use, and pull your ear down towards your shoulder. You will feel a stretch in the opposite side of your neck. Be sure to repeat this on both sides, and do it as many times a day as you wish.
3 | Cross Body Shoulder Stretch
When you’re seated for long periods of time, your shoulders tend to roll forwards and stay in poor posture positions for long periods of time. Your shoulders also draw your neck and spine forwards with them, creating an unhealthy constant curve of your spine. This cross-body shoulder stretch can be done sitting or standing — stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and reach one arm straight across your body and hold it with the other arm. Gently pull your arm towards your body if you want more of a stretch. This will also help your shoulders from getting tense when you’re spending stressful days at your desk.
4 | Butterfly Stretch
Image credit: Verywell Fit
Although your hips may not seem like the source of your problems when it comes to pain from sitting, they are a big proponent of your overall seated posture. It is important to maintain your hip flexibility and positioning when sitting for long periods of time, as their strength contributes to your overall comfort when sitting. A butterfly stretch will help your hips feel less tense. Start by sitting on the floor with a straightened back and put the soles of your feet together in front of you. Pull your heels as close to your body as comfortable, and then lean forward slightly while keeping your spine straight. You can push your knees towards the ground for an even more intense stretch.
5 | Eye of the Needle
Image credit: Momentum Mag
This stretch is intended to help elongate your lower back and open up your hips while stretching your glutes. This can be good for when you have a bit more time to focus on your stretches, as it can be held for long periods of time and practiced daily for better results. Start by laying on your back and bending both knees with your feet flat on the floor. Cross one ankle over the opposite knee, flex your foot, and reach through your legs to grab the bent leg behind your thigh. Use your arms to draw your knee closer to your chest until you feel the stretch in your hips, and be sure to alternate sides for equal amounts of time.
Stretching and moving throughout the day, whether you sit at a desk or not, is good for your body, mind, and spirit. You are taking time to strengthen and loosen your body, spending mindful energy on your wellness, and treating your soul with kindness and positive energy.
When you consider movement in your day-to-day, remember that stretching isn’t the only option. We also highly recommend getting out to go for a walk (especially outside if you can!), or even standing up and pacing around while on a phone call. You can also set alarms throughout the day to remind you to stand or stretch, get a standing desk to be mindful of your sitting time, or invest in a desk treadmill to get your daily steps in. The important thing is to keep your body and wellness in mind when you’re busy with work.
It is so easy to let life get busy and allow movement and care to slip through the cracks. Your body will thank you for implementing even the smallest loving and intentional moments, like stretching at your desk, into your day.