Sitting at a desk, in a car or on a plane for extended periods of time can not only leave you feeling tight and uncomfortable at the end of the day, but over time, sedentary positions can cause lasting pain, stiffness and limited range of motion. Not everyone has a personal trainer to provide hands-on stretches, a company gym membership or a schedule that allows for yoga or stretching. Have no fear, your friends at Public Body have your back (literally.) Here are some stretches that loosen the muscles made most stiff by extended periods of sitting. Best of all, you only need your body, a little bit of time, and most of them can be done right in your office.
1. Hip Flexors These muscles are most likely to tighten after long days of sitting, so we'll begin with the hip flexors. Start by kneeling up tall with your shins and tops of your feet flat on the ground. Bring your right leg forward placing your right foot flat on the floor, keeping the right knee directly above the right ankle. Keep both hips horizontally aligned and move your hips and torso forward so that your right knee shifts over the right toes. You should feel this stretch in your left hip flexors. To deepen the stretch, curl your left toes onto the floor and raise the left knee slightly off the ground, allowing gravity to assist the stretch as you continue to keep the hips forward. You may place your hands on the top of the right thigh for support. Hold for at least 30 seconds then switch sides.
2. Chest and Shoulders While sitting, we are often hunched over keyboards or smartphones causing stiffness in the shoulders and tightness in the chest. To lengthen to chest and front of shoulders, reach both arms behind you, and interlock your fingers with palms facing each other. Keeping your shoulders down and back, gently lift your arms up and back to feel a stretch in your chest and front shoulders. Hold this position for 15 seconds 2-3 times, and definitely at least every 30 minutes when working at your desk!
3. Neck The same positions that cause shoulder and chest tightening, also cause strain on the neck muscles. There are a few ways to release tension in the neck. First, raise both shoulders up as high as you can and squeeze the neck muscles tightly for 3 seconds, then completely release tension, allowing both shoulders to drop like dead weight. Do this 3-5 times. Neck rolls are also effective for stretching the neck. Drop your chin down to your chest. Gently roll the head down and up to the side to look to the right. Then drop the chin back to the chest and roll the head to look to the left. Continue to roll for 3-5 "semi-circles." Finally, for a deeper neck stretch, reach your left hand behind your back, placing the top of your left hand behind your right hip. Then take the right hand and reach it over your head, and place the right hand over your left ear. Tuck the chin slightly and allow the weight of your right arm to gently pull the head to the right causing a deep stretch to the left side of the neck. Hold for 10-15 seconds then repeat on the opposite side.
4. Glutes Before you think of stretching your glutes, go ahead and get up. Yes you, get out of the chair and walk for a minute. Thank you! Now we can give you a stretch. While in your chair, cross your right ankle over your left knee. Keep your left foot stable and flat on the floor. Gently press down on your right knee and slowly lean your chest and torso forward. You will feel a deep stretch in your right glutes. Hold for 30 seconds and then repeat on the opposite side.
5. Wrists and forearms Arms and wrists can tighten up from long days of typing on your computer, and put you at risk for carpal tunnel syndrome. After about 30 minutes of computer work, take a minute to do this stretch. Extend your right arm out in front of you with your palm facing up. Then take your left hand and gently pull all fingers of your right hand down and back, extending the right hand toward your body while keeping there right elbow as straight as possible. Hold for 10 seconds and repeat on the left side.
6. Back (Spinal Twists) Sit up tall toward the front of your chair with feet flat on the floor. Reach your right hand behind you and place it on the seat of your chair. Reach your left hand across your body and grab onto the right side of your seat. While maintaining a tall posture, gently rotate your torso, neck and head to look behind you over your right shoulder. Hold for about 15 seconds and then repeat on the opposite side.
Stay hot. Stay awesome. Stay flexible!
*always consult your physician before beginning any stretching or fitness routine.