The 12 best stretching exercises at your desk

1. Just stand up and sit down -- no hands

If you stand up and sit down (over and over) without using your hands it can be a challenge. Consider doing a minute of this simple exercise (so long as it causes no pain) simply by getting slowly up from your chair and slowly sitting back down again holding your arms folded across your chest. If a minute is comfortable repeat a few times throughout the day and build-up your strength accordingly. If you feel uncomfortably breathless and experience any chest pains consult your GP asap.

2. Substitute exercise for sitting -- while you work

Get rid of your desk chair and substitute an exercise ball to exercise and strengthen your core muscles. Share it with colleagues who have the same attitude as you. You are engaging all the muscles in the stomach, back and legs to stay balanced. To begin with it might feel difficult so try it for small periods of 10 minutes and slowly build up to longer periods as your core strength and balance improves. This is something good to practice at home too.

3. Shrug your shoulders -- to release the neck and shoulders

Inhale deeply and shrug your shoulders, lifting them high up to your ears. Hold. Release and drop. Repeat three times.

4. Loosen the hands with air circles

  1. Clench both fists, stretching both hands out in front of you.

  2. Make circles in the air, first in one direction, to the count of ten.

  3. Then reverse the circles.

  4. Shake out the hands.

5. Point your fingers -- good for hands, wrist, and forearms

  1. Stretch your left hand out in front of you, pointing fingers toward the floor. Use your right hand to increase the stretch, pushing your fingers down and toward the body. Be gentle.

  2. Do the same with the other hand.

  3. Now stretch your left hand out straight in front, wrist bent, with fingers pointing skyward. Use your right hand to increase the stretch, pulling the fingers back toward your body.

  4. Do the same on the other side.

6. Release the upper body with a torso twist

  1. Inhale and as you exhale, turn to the right and grab the back of your chair with your right hand, and grab the arm of the chair with your left.

  2. With eyes level, use your grasp on the chair to help twist your torso around as far to the back of the room as possible. Hold the twist and let your eyes continue the stretch -- see how far around the room you can peer.

  3. Slowly come back to facing forward.

  4. Repeat on the other side.

7. Do leg extensions -- work the abs and legs

  1. Grab the seat of your chair to brace yourself and extend your legs straight out in front of you so they are parallel to the floor.

  2. Flex and point your toes five times. Release.

  3. Repeat.

8. Stretch your back with a "big hug"

Hug your body, placing the right hand on your left shoulder and the left hand on your right shoulder. Breathe in and out, releasing the area between your shoulder blades.

9. Cross your arms -- for the shoulders and upper back

  1. Extend one arm out straight in front of you. With the other hand, grab the elbow of the outstretched arm and pull it across your chest, stretching your shoulder and upper back muscles.

  2. Hold. Release.

  3. Stretch out the other arm in front of you -- repeat.

10. Stretch your back and shoulders with a "leg hug"

  1. Sit on the edge of your chair (if it has wheels, wedge the chair against the desk or wall to make sure it does not roll). Put your feet together, flat on the floor.

  2. Lean over, chest to knees, letting your arms dangle loosely to the floor. Release your neck.

  3. Now bring your hands behind your legs, right hand grasping left wrist, forearm (or elbow if you can reach that far), left hand grasping the right. Feel the stretch in your back, shoulders and neck. Hold.

  4. Release your hands to the floor again.

  5. Repeat three times or as often as it feels good.

11. Look up to release upper body

  1. Sit up tall in your chair, or stand up. Stretch your arms overhead and interlock your fingers.

  2. Turn the palms to the ceiling as you lift your chin up, tilt your head back, and gaze up at the ceiling, too.

  3. Inhale, exhale, release.

12. Substitute walks for email -- and don't eat at your desk

Instead of emailing a colleague and copying 25 people who don't want to be copied anyway, walk over to the colleague you really want to talk to.


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© 2012 7Futures Ltd. Please note that, at 7Futures, our role is to help educate and encourage our clients to take positive responsibility for their wellbeing. We are not medical doctors and are not able to offer individual medical advice. We always recommend you should discuss with your GP or other medical professional before making any changes you hope will impact your wellbeing, or that of your current/future family.  7Futures Ltd offers generic information which is for educational purposes only. The information we provided is not a prescription system and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. As such our materials, videos products and communications are for general information purposes only and should not be read as a personal recommendation for specific changes in lifestyle behaviour, nutrition, or exercise. Please click here for a clear description of our services and the relationship with you as a client. You should not participate in any of our services until you have studied this is for your benefit.

Mark Davies