By now, you've probably heard the news that sitting is deadly. In fact, a new Australian study says that every hour of sitting actually reduces our life expectancy by 21.8 minutes. Besides the worrisome long-term effects, those hours spent in front of your computer can affect your immediate life in the form of aches and pains. Here's how to open up your body and give your chair-weary joints and limbs a good stretch.
Lower-back stretches: Lower-back pain is a common problem among office dwellers, and what we sit on can be to blame. You may be able to do this butterfly stretch (above) on your chair; if not, there's no shame in sitting next to your desk to do it. To do the butterfly, bend both knees and bring your feet together. With your hands, press your feet together, using your elbows to press your knees down toward the floor. This stretch will relax your lower back while opening up tight hips; more lower-back and hip-opening stretches can be found here.
Chest-opening stretches: Hunching over your keyboard can leave you with rounded shoulders and a tight chest. Open up anywhere with this easy standing stretch: Find a corner wall in your office and place one hand on the corner and step forward with the opposite leg until you feel your chest stretch. Hold for 30 seconds and move to the other side of the corner to do your other side. For more chest-opening stretches, try these heart-opening yoga poses, like the seated heart opener below.
Keep reading for more essential office stretches.
Tight hips: This is an almost universal problem for chair-sitters, so you can never have enough stretches that help. Stretching your hip flexors is an important way to increase your flexibility and relieve aches and pains. If you're at work, try this kneeling hip flexor stretch in a free conference room: Kneel down and place your left knee about eight inches from the wall with your toes against the wall. Place your right foot flat on the ground in front of you and lower your hips until you feel a stretch. Keep your upper body straight by placing your hands on your right knee. Hold for 30 seconds then slowly release and do your other side. More essential stretches for tight hips are here.
Neck and shoulder stretches: This behind-the-back neck stretch is easy to do, and the tension-relieving effects are instant. Stand and reach both hands behind you, below your back. Hold your left wrist with your right hand and use your right hand to gently pull and straighten your left arm away from you. Move your head to your right side to give your neck a stretch. Hold for 30 seconds and switch. Find more neck and shoulder stretches here.
Photos: Jenny Sugar