According to the American Heart Association, about half the U.S. workforce was physically active during the workday in 1950, compared with less than 20 percent in today’s world. That puts a lot of people in sedentary jobs, many spending long hours bound to a desk.
A growing amount of research suggests that sitting is contributing to higher rates of disease and death, even among those who get the recommended amounts of exercise each week. While some people are turning to standing workstations and treadmill desks, there are some simple ways to help combat “sitting disease” in the workplace. You won’t get your recommended amount of exercise this way, but you can avoid some of the aches and pains that come from sitting at a desk for too long.
Try these 6 simple stretching exercises several times each day:
Neck stretches: Bend your neck forward, pressing your chin against your chest, while keeping your shoulders straight. Then slowly turn your neck to the right, as if you are looking over your shoulder. Repeat to the left. Tilt your head to one side, pressing your ear to your shoulder while keeping your shoulders still. Repeat on the other side.
Shoulder shrug: Sit up straight and lift both shoulders up toward your ears for 3-5 seconds. Relax and repeat. Roll the shoulders forward several times to loosen muscles, then backward.
Pectoral stretch: Clasp your hands behind your head and pull your shoulder blades together and elbows back to stretch and open your chest area. Be sure to keep your body in an aligned position.
Hand and wrist stretches: Separate and straighten fingers on both hands for 10 seconds. Then, bend your fingers at the knuckles and hold for 10 seconds. Gently use the left hand to stretch the right wrist forward for 3-5 seconds, then backward. Repeat with other hand.
Hip flexions. Lift your right foot a few inches off the floor. Keep your knee bent at a 90-degree angle and hold the position as long as you can. Repeat with the left foot.
Vertical stretches: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Raise up on your toes and extend your arms overhead. Alternately reach as high as possible with each hand for 7-10 seconds. Repeat four times to reduce tension and activate all major muscle groups.
When you are sitting at your desk, it’s important to sit up straight – don’t hunch – and breathe deeply throughout the day to slow down your heart rate and release tension. Find other ways to incorporate healthy habits into your workday here.