Sitting at a desk all day has its consequences—tight hips, slowing of the metabolism and brain function, a strained neck and inflexible spine are just some of them. Our bodies are designed to move; movement pumps fresh blood around our muscles and organs, which is vital for keeping us feeling our best (read: energised). Which is why incorporating some stretching exercises into your working day could help.
I gave up sitting at work last year and now use a standing desk every day, which has been shown to burn upwards of 300 calories each day. Why did I make the switch? Well, at the end of each working day, as I sat hunched over a desk, I felt this urge to want to crack my upper back between my shoulder blades. Now, I get squeamish when people crack their knuckles in front of me, so I knew this was bad. I also took up yoga; I'd never wanted to before, but sitting down all day left me craving the sort of deep stretches I thought I could only find at the mat.
Within a week of standing at work and going to yoga, I no longer felt that urge to crack my back.
Of course, you may hate yoga (a lot of people do), and you may not want to stand all day at work either. So I called on stretching expert Suzanne Wylde, who has written the book Moving Stretch: Work Your Fascia to Free Your Body (£15) to share four stretches that you can perform at your desk to help alleviate some of the common issues you get from working in an office environment.
Keep scrolling to find out how to loosen up at your desk.
Hamstring Stretch at Chair
Why do this? This stretches your central hamstrings, helping to reverse the damage of sitting for a long time.
How to do it: Sit with one leg out in front of you and your toes pointing towards the ceiling. As your foot pulls itself down into the floor continuously to create tension, lean forwards smoothly from your hips to stretch. When you’ve gone as far as you can comfortably, return easily to the starting position and repeat on the opposite side.
Hip Flexor Stretch At Chair
Why do this? With this move, you're stretching your hip flexors, again helping to reverse the effect of sitting for a long time.
How to do it: Sit slightly at the edge of your chair, tuck your foot underneath the seat so your thigh is pointing down to the floor. As your push your foot down into the floor continuously, lean back in one smooth, slow motion while holding the chair for stability. Come back to the starting position easily and gently, and repeat on the opposite side.
Wrist Stretch at Desk
Why do this? It's not just your hips that need stretching; this stretches your wrists and palms, relieving strain from typing.
How to do it: Rest your fingers on the edge of your desk, and push your fingers and hands down into the desk. Lean forwards with your body to push the heel of your palm down and forward, stretching your wrists and palms.
Self-Hug Back Stretch
Why do this? This move stretches your upper back and shoulders, releasing tension from hunching over your desk.
How to do it: Bend one of your arms in front of you and then place your other arm bent on top of it, so the elbows are one above the other. Use the picture as a guide, but for a deeper stretch have the hand of the upper arm on the shoulder and the hand of the lower arm further down, just underneath the opposite shoulder. Squeezing your elbows together continuously move your elbows up and down to stretch your shoulders and back.
Do these stretches mid-morning and mid-afternoon to help alleviate the tightness and sluggishness we can all get from sitting down all day.