Mind Body

Three Simple Stretches for the Desk Warrior

“Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live.” – Jim Rohn

A woman doing a shoulder and back stretch at her desk

Get Up & Move!

Moving your body is the key to opening your mind, expanding your thoughts, and feeling good in your body. These days, so many of us are sedentary; either commuting or tied to a desk for most of the day.  Sitting causes a pattern of tightness that can lead to weaknesses and imbalances, all that can negatively affect the way you look, feel, and perform. In fact, you’re most likely sitting down right now reading this!

Understanding Your Physical Needs

The weakness challenge can be corrected in the gym through consistent full body resistance training sessions focusing on functional movement patterns like squatting, lunging, pushing, pulling, hinging, twisting, and walking. 

However, tightness is not as easily addressed. Sitting in a flexed hip position can cause a lot of tightness, especially in your hips, which can be challenging to make headway on. When they become tight, they can cause back pain, hip pain, a bulging abdomen, and reduce hip extension performance. Stretching before and after your workouts will help, but just like you can’t out train a bad diet, you can out stretch tightness. For example, stretching for thirty minutes a week just simply can’t offset the forty plus hours you spend sitting.

Instead, try to move more often. Get up from your desk to walk to grab tea or water often. Walk to the coffee shop or takeaway lunch restaurant instead of ordering in or allowing your coworker to pick it up for you.  Instead of instant messaging, calling, or emailing, walk over to your colleague to discuss a question or project. Standing up while on the phone or request a standing desk so you’re on your feet more often. While you’re up, it’s a good time to stretch your body to lengthen your muscles.

Three Stretches to Get You Moving

Here are three stretches that you can do anywhere

Take note: it is recommended to get into the stretches gradually and slowly, minimizing bouncing. Try not to force the stretch and ease into them, holding for thirty to sixty seconds. Pushing your body past its range of flexibility can lead to injury. The more you practice the easier the stretches will be able to do and your range of motion will increase naturally.

If you choose to do these stretches with a co-worker or friend, it is good to acknowledge that since everyone’s anatomy varies, intensity of the stretch may range based on the tightness of the muscle and range of motion available to that person.

A man stretching his thighs standing next to his desk

For your hip flexors: 

Half Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch

Take a large step forward and then bend your knees into a lunge position. Rest your rear knee on the floor and make sure your front shin is vertical. Keeping your torso upright, sink your hips forward and down toward the floor. Move your rear leg back if necessary. Do not support your weight with your hands and let gravity pull you deeper and deeper into the stretch. You should be feeling this stretch closer to the hip on the quadricep muscle (the muscle located on the front part of your leg between the knee and hip bone) on the rear leg.

For your thoracic spine and abdomen: 

Torso Stretch and Trunk Rotation

If you’re a keyboard warrior, it is likely your thoracic spine (upper back) is more hunched than it should be due to poor posture and constantly reaching in front of you to type or text. The reason why this is an issue is because a rounded upper back can lead to sagging abdominals and a concave chest, which can then lead to other imbalances farther down your body.

Sitting in your chair, keep your feet firmly on the ground, facing forward. Twist your upper body in the direction o the arm that’s resting on the back of your chair. Hold for 30-60 seconds and repeat on the other side.

For your arms and lats: 

Overhead Reach

Sit tall in the chair and extend one arm overhead. Reach to the opposite side and hold for 30-60 seconds. Repeat on the other side.

To Decompress your Spine: 

Upward Dog or Sphinx Stretch

This stretch will elongate your torso and give your hip flexors extra love and should be felt in your upper back and lower back without any pain or tension in your lower back or neck. To perform it, lie on your front with your forearms flat on the floor and your hands overlapping. Lift up and rest on your elbows as though you were reading a book at the beach. Make sure your upper arms are vertical and your shoulders are down and back. There should be no tension in your upper traps/neck area. Push your abdomen into the floor as you lift your chest.

Find the Time to Move Around

In summary, sitting down is hard to avoid but the problems caused by sitting are easily corrected if practiced often. Stretch what is tight frequently and regularly and stay mobile, healthy, and supple for life.

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