Sitting is the new smoking. At least that’s how the media portrays what they call a modern public health threat. So where’s the danger when you’re sitting in your air-conditioned cubicle clacking away at your computer? Experts find that sitting for long periods of time is linked to higher weight, body fat, blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol. Scientists have identified that sitting suppresses the activity of lipoprotein lipase, an enzyme that helps us make HDL (good) cholesterol and take in glucose from the blood more efficiently.
Sitting on the job is inevitable for many of us, so what can we do to reduce the health impacts? We can make it a goal to move more often! Walking, running, swimming, dancing and lifting weights all count toward this goal, and so does stretching.
Don’t overlook the benefits of stretching, which include better balance, less stress, increased circulation, higher stamina and improved flexibility. Stretching keeps your muscles lean and mean so that you can perform all activities in your life more efficiently. After all, short, tight and inflexible muscles are no fun — they can lead to pain and strain.
What to Expect from a Good Stretch
You should feel some tension from a good stretch, but it shouldn’t be painful. Ease into your stretch and hold it for 30-60 seconds. As you make stretching a habit, you’ll learn more about your body’s limits. After a good stretch you may feel better and more relaxed, but don’t think it ends there. You’ll need to stretch consistently over a long period of time to reap the full benefits. If you hold a desk job, try to get up and stretch every hour.
8 Stretches You Can Do Every Day
Before you get started, make sure your chair is at the right height. You should be able to sit up straight with your knee at a 90 degree angle and both feet flat on the floor. Adjust your chair if you need to! When you’re ready, here are 8 not-too-wild and totally-office-appropriate stretches you can rely on. One for each hour of the work day:
1. Sitting Side Stretch
While sitting, raise one hand up in the air towards the ceiling. Reach the raised hand towards the opposite side and hold for 30-60 seconds. Repeat with the other side.
2. Chest Stretch
Place both arms behind your back. Lace your fingers together with your palms facing each other. Slowly lift your arms until you feel a stretch across your chest. Keep your shoulders pulled down and back. Hold the stretch for 45-60 seconds.
3. Forearm Stretch
Put one arm straight out in front of you with your palm facing the floor. Use the other hand to press the back of the outstretched arm towards you. You should feel a stretch in your forearm. Hold for about 30 seconds. Now, flip the palm of the outstretched hand so it faces the ceiling. Use the other hand to press down on the fingers of the outstretched arm, and hold for 30 seconds. Switch arms.
4. Spinal Twist
Sit up straight in a chair with your knees at a 90 degree angle and both feet flat on the floor. Slowly rotate your upper body and head to the right. You can use the right arm of your office chair to help you get a deeper stretch. Hold it for 30-60 seconds. Repeat for the left side of your body.
5. Wrist Stretch
Stand up opposite your chair or desk. Place both wrists on the edge of your chair arm or desk so that your wrists face away from you (and your fingers point towards you). Sink slowly into your wrists with your body weight until you feel a slight pressure. Hold for 30 seconds.
6. Neck Rolls
Sit up straight and pull your shoulders back. Tip your head forward and your chin down. Slowly roll your head to the left until you form a circle. Do this 10-15 times. Repeat by rolling your head to the right.
7. Tricep Stretch
Raise your left arm towards the ceiling bending it at the elbow. Your left palm should hit the opposite shoulder blades. Use your right hand to pull your left elbow towards your head. Hold for 30 seconds. Repeat with the other arm.
8. Shoulder Stretch
While sitting upright, cross your left arm across your body. Use the opposite arm to pull your left elbow towards your right shoulder. Hold this for 30 seconds. Repeat with your other arm.