They call it being a “desk jockey”, a “paper pusher” or a “white shirt”. Those of us on the nine-to-five beat have a very close relationship with our desks. You may have heard of the ill effects of the “sedentary lifestyle” and this includes sitting at a computer all day at work.
Being “chained to the desk” has been linked to weight gain, heightened cholesterol, aches and pains, cardiovascular disease, even diabetes and cancer. The body has to move to be healthy.
It’s a fact that increasing mobility and flexibility promote circulation, healing and proper structure. And you don’t have to run a marathon or do a 90-minute cardio session in order to get that circulation going. In fact, doing daily stretches can help a lot, and there are some that are easy to do right where you sit. With a little discipline, you can get your exercise even during your daily grind.
Here are some stretches you can do at work:
- Neck Stretch : Staring at a computer screen can be exhausting, and also create tension in the neck. Here’s one way to get some relief. Drop your chin down to your chest and let it gently stretch the back of your neck. Next, roll your neck in slow circles, to the right and then to the left. If you feel any strain, don’t push it. Just let your neck slowly and gently stretch. When you have done this 3-5 times, inhale and exhale deeply, letting your shoulders shrug up and down.
- Shoulder Stretch : Pain behind the shoulders is common in desk work. Place your left arm across your chest and use your right arm to gently pull the extended arm towards your body, then repeat on the other side. This will relieve the tension in the shoulders. Do this as many times as needed throughout the day.
- Wall Push-ups : Here’s an exercise to get your blood moving and get your shoulders loosened up. Stand about 2 feet from a sturdy wall, placing your hands directly out in front of you against the wall, so that you are leaning slightly forward. Slowly bend at the elbows until your face as near to the wall as it can reach, then push back up to a standing position. Do as many of these as you can, gradually increasing the number daily.
- Wrist Stretch : Repetitive motions of the wrists and hands are associated with carpal tunnel syndrome and other problems. To prevent this, do wrist circles several times a day, first clockwise and then counterclockwise. Next, spread your fingers as far as you can and then ball them into fists. Repeat often.
- Back Stretch : Here’s some help for that aching back. Brace your hands against your desk, and push your chair back from the desk. You should feel a stretch along your back. Repeat this up to 15 times. Then, reverse the motion by sitting straight up and reaching toward the ceiling, with your palms up. Hold it for 10 seconds.
- Leg Stretch : Yes, you can even stretch your legs at your desk. Stretch your hamstrings by putting one foot up on the desk and reaching for your heel. You can flex and point your foot several times to get even more of a stretch. Then repeat with the other leg. Next, stand up and grab hold of your chair or a wall. Take hold of your right ankle, pulling it backwards, to get a stretch in the thigh muscle. Then repeat on the left. Finally, while sitting in your chair, stretch your legs out into the air in front of you, flexing and pointing each toe repeatedly.
Doing these stretches will prevent your body from thinking that it is winding down, and it will help keep your circulation going and protect your overall health.