Stretching is a powerful tool for boosting our health and wellbeing.
It helps to counteract the negative health impact of spending soooo looong sitting. We know that sitting all day is seriously bad for our health, and it’s even been said that sitting is the new smoking.
The evidence shows that a high level of sedentary behaviour negatively impacts health independent of other factors including body weight, diet, and physical activity. It increases our risk of type II diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease and certain cancers.
As we glance around the office at our colleagues, we can also see the negative impact of sitting all day on their postures… and perhaps can recognise that our own posture is more tense and hunched that we would like.
Stretching is a free and easy way of breaking up the time spent sitting still, as well as bringing a host of other benefits:
Benefits of Stretching:
Enhanced flexibility and posture: Sitting for extended periods can wreak havoc on our bodies, leading to tight muscles and poor posture. Stretching regularly improves flexibility, allowing us to maintain a wider range of motion and a more upright and aligned posture.
Improved circulation and energy levels: Stretching encourages blood flow, which delivers oxygen and essential nutrients to our muscles and organs allowing them to work effectively. Regular stretching breaks in the office can provide a revitalizing burst of energy, keeping us alert and focused throughout the day.
Reduced risk of injury: By helping muscles and joints to stay healthy, and maintain their full range of motion, they are more able to face the challenges that we ask of them. Stretches are therefore a great tool for preventing pain and injury.
Effective stretches for office workers:
1. Neck stetch
Slowly tilt ear to the shoulder, then look up at the ceiling, then down at the floor. Repeat for the other side.
2. Shoulder roll
Place fingers on shoulder and circle the elbows, touching at the front. Reverse.
3. Pectoral stretch - Opening up the shoulders
Clasp hands behind and raise up, rolling elbows towards each other.
4. Forearm stretch
Stretch arms out to the side with wrists bent back (penguin walk) and then reverse and bend wrists inwards.
5. Upper body stretch
Stand against a wall with feet 10cm out, backside, shoulder and head touching the wall. Stretch arms upwards, count to 10 and release back down.
How to get most out of your stretches:
Ease into the stretch – don’t force it (it shouldn’t be painful)
Use your breath to relax into the stretch – with each outbreath, relax a little more and notice the stretch deepen
Stretching is a powerful and free tool at our disposal. By taking a few minutes each day to stretch, we can experience numerous physical and mental benefits – improved posture, resilience against pain, illness and injury, boosted energy and reduced stress. So why wouldn’t you!?
Building a habit for stretching is the key. Think about what will prompt you over the next few days and weeks to do it. Write yourself a post-it note, pin up a print out of some stretches, book it in your electronic calendar, or instal a break timer ap on your phone or computer. Choose what works for you. And then just do it.
Lois Hill is an Occupational Therapist working for WorkSpace IQ with 11 years’ clinical experience and specialist in vocational rehabilitation and pain management. She is passionate about empowering clients with the means to maximise their function, health and wellbeing.
Holzgreve, F., Maltry, L. et al (2020) The Office Work and Stretch Training (OST) Study: An Individualized and Standardized Approach to Improve the Quality of Life in Office Workers. Int J Environ Res Public Health 17(12):4522
Katzmarzyk, P., Church, T., Craig, C., Bouchard, C (2009) Sitting time and mortality from all causes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer; Med Sci Sports Exercise 41(5):998-1005.