Simple Stretches for Desk Jockies

by Jeff Cans
man doing stretches by his office desk

The working class of America is one that does a lot of sitting nowadays. And as important as those jobs may be, this also poses a problem. Sitting is great when you need to rest your legs, because as much as health coaches preach exercise, they also preach moderation in that exercise. However, when you sit for hours on end for several days, a few things happen, none of them good. First off, your hips, ankles, and knees stiffen up over time, your muscles begin to weaken, your shoulders will start rounding forward, and your back hunches. And all of this culminates in your metabolism depressing from stalled circulation caused by all of the above.

Not good, as you can no doubt surmise, not very well at all. However, not everyone has the time or the disposable income these days for a gym membership, so it seems like a catch-22. But this needn’t be the case, as exercise is not just the territory of the gym rats. Anyone can do it if they only know where to start. If your job has you sitting down all day every day, and you would rather avoid what the first paragraph of this article covered, here are some good stretches and basic exercises you can do at home to keep in shape.

Supported Backbend

Now, this isn’t just your normal type of bending over backwards. For one, when stretching, the trick is to hold your position for a few minutes at least. And when you’re bending backwards, that can be hard. So, you should do so when facing away from a wall, at least an inch of space between your heel and the baseboard. Then, with your arms over your head, bend your elbows until your palms are upside down and facing the wall. Finally, lean back slowly until your hands hit the wall and just walk your hands down the wall until you feel your back stretch. Then hold for a minute or two, before releasing. Start slowly, gradually going further and further back. A good trick when doing this is to press your tongue on the roof of your mouth with your jaw hanging open, breathing through your nostrils while you hold.

This will help get rid of that hunch in your posture that writers tend to have after years of bending over their keyboards. It also strengthens the muscles in charge of keeping your spine stabilized.

Star reach

woman in office doing overhead stretchesOne of the easiest, yet one of the most effective exercises you can do at home if you work at it hard enough, the star reach consists of you simply doing what it says on the tin; standing in a star-like position, with your legs spread out slightly wider than your hips, your feet on your tippy toes, your arms outstretched upwards and all your fingers spread.

This will actually serve to lengthen your body through stretching out your shoulders, mid-back, ankles, hips, and chest. This is the perfect way to prevent your joints and muscles from tightening up from sitting in a chair for too long.

Low cobra

This is where you lie face down on the ground (preferably on top of yoga blocks or foam roller), place your forearms on the ground in front of you, going straight forward, and then raise and lower your head while pulling back your shoulders. Do this for a few minutes once every day.

Now, what does this do? A few things, actually. First of all, it strengthens your glutes, which you definitely need to work on if your job has you sitting down for a long time every day. Despite sitting on them all day, this actually severely weakens your glutes. Next, it helps to stretch your hip flexors, which have likely become tightened from being bent into the sitting position for so long. Finally it helps to open up and strengthen your chest, lower back, and shoulders. Again, be sure to do this on some kind of exercise pad like a foam roller, because the cold hard ground will hinder your progress much more than it’ll help it.

Shoulder opener

When we sit, our shoulders are pushed forward, especially when working at a keyboard all day. Not only does this bend our shoulders one direction that can be unhealthy in the end, it also collapses our chest (not necessarily as deadly as that sounds, but it still isn’t good) which can hurt our breathing. By that logic, a shoulder opener helps reverse that process and return your shoulders to a healthier position. You stand up straight, with a towel/belt/etc. in each hand behind your back. You then lift your arms back as far as you can without it hurting, followed by pulling your shoulders back and together before releasing the towel after a certain amount of time. Repeat once a day, slowly adding to the time you spend in that position.

Lunge and rotate

man doing lunge stretchingA daily jog is important if you’re on your butt a lot for work. However, there’s another exercise you can add onto that to help. First you take a long stride forward with one foot, while keeping the other firmly in place. When your foot hits the ground, bend your knee, but make sure that your knee doesn’t eclipse your toes from your perspective. Next, put both hands on either side of the outstretched foot. Finally, lift up your right arm as high up as you can, turning your head along with it. Take a deep breath, and repeat once a day, increasing how far you lunge a little each time.

Like running, this helps to build up strength in your legs, but this exercise also strengthens your shoulders and stretches your hips. Not only that, but regular rotations like this will keep the movements in your spine nice and healthy.

These simple exercises can be used by almost anyone in their home. So if you want to get back in shape from sitting at a desk all day every day, make a note of the above training exercises, and work at getting back in shape.


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