You know the feeling: tightness creeping up your back into your neck and a subtle ache as your shoulders pinch and your tension headache sets in.
Damn that nonergonomic desk chair.
If your work furniture is getting you down, stop the madness. Literally, stop what you’re doing right now. Push yourself away from your desk (it’s cool, we know you’re reading this at work) and work your way through these 10 stretches — they’ll take less than 10 minutes to wrap up.
1. Chest opener
Sit up straight, clasp your hands behind you and press your palms together as you push your hands backward, opening up your chest for a good stretch. As you reach backward, close your eyes and allow your neck to relax backward, causing your chest to lift higher, deepening the stretch. Hold for 10 seconds, release to start position and repeat two more times.
2. Side stretch
Sit up tall, take a deep breath in and reach your arms up above your head as high as you can, trying to keep your shoulders down and away from your ears as you stretch up. Exhale and lean to the right, stretching the left side of your body. Hold for three seconds and return to center, repeating on the opposite side. Continue stretching side-to-side for a total of 60 seconds.
3. Neck roll
Sit tall, keeping your torso steady, and tilt your left ear to your left shoulder. In a slow, conscientious movement, roll your head down to center, so your chin is to your chest and across to the opposite side. Perform five neck rolls from side-to-side before switching to backward neck rolls, starting with the left ear to the left shoulder, but this time rolling your neck backward so you’re looking up mid-way through the movement.
4. Nod and shake
This is an over-exaggerated, but slow and conscientious, nod and shake of the head. Simply start by nodding your head five times, bringing your chin all the way down to your chest before allowing your head to lean back as far as it can. Each nod should take two to three seconds. After five nods, shake your head as if you were saying “no,” slowly turning your head all the way to the left before turning it all the way to the right. Again, each nod should take two to three seconds.
5. Triceps stretch
Reach both hands up over your head, dropping your right hand down the center of your spine before grasping your right elbow with your left hand. Pull your right elbow toward your midline to deepen the stretch along the back of your triceps. Hold for 30 seconds, then switch sides.
6. Cross-body shoulder stretch
For a great stretch across the back of the shoulders, extend the right arm before crossing it in front of your body. Grasp your right arm with your left hand, right below the elbow, pulling the arm closer to your chest. Hold for 30 seconds before switching sides.
7. Forward stretch and reach
This is an excellent exercise for releasing tension across the upper back. Clasp your hands together in front of your chest, turning your wrists so your palms face away from your body. Extend your elbows, using your shoulders and upper back to start pressing your palms as far as you can away from your body. As you stretch, lower your head and neck between your arms as you round your upper back to deepen the stretch.
8. Seated twist
Once your neck and upper back are feeling better, it’s time to work your way down the spine. The seated twist can help alleviate tightness through your mid-back and down into the lumbar region of the spine. Plus, it just feels good.
Sit tall, feet flat on the floor. Reach your right arm back, placing it on the back of the chair or armrest. Reach across your body with your left hand, placing it on the outside of your right thigh. Take a deep breath in, allowing yourself to “get taller” with the breath. Then, as you exhale, twist your torso to the right as far as you comfortably can, looking over your right shoulder. Hold for five seconds before repeating on the opposite side. Perform three twists to each side.
9. Knee to chest stretch
The knee to chest stretch helps release tension in the lower back while also stretching the glutes and even the hamstrings.
Sit toward the front of your office chair, your feet flat on the floor about hip-distance apart. Take a deep breath in, checking for good posture. As you breathe out, draw your right knee up toward your body, grasping it with both hands, then pulling it closer to your chest. Hold for five seconds before switching sides. Perform three repetitions per side.
10. Forearm stretch
Finish up your office stretches with a simple forearm stretch. Just place your hands fingers-to-palm directly in front of your chest, so that your right fingers are pointing up and your left fingers are pointing down. Press and hold your hands together as tight as you can for three seconds, then release and rotate your hands so your right fingers are pointing down and your left fingers are pointing up. Repeat three times per side.