Many office workers suffer from the same problem, aches and pains that won’t go away due to excessive sitting at work all day. Many of them also know how important it is to do some exercises in order to boost energy and ease that discomfort, and that getting active for even just a few minutes a day will end up being a lifetime of less pain.
Also, lucky for you, you don’t need a special room to do the exercises we have suggested below, you can do them at your desk or anywhere you prefer!
Doing a couple of simple exercises or stretches is likely to ease your back pain and restore your energy levels, so that you can continue to be as productive as ever. Good stretching exercises can improve blood flow, energize your body and relieve you from that nagging back pain that has been a thorn in your side for a long time. Anyone who tends to work a lot in a seated position is prone towards having back problems, but there is a very easy way to get rid of it.
Sitting still is one of the worst things you can do to yourself, but it is understandable when the situation calls for it, especially since over 90% of today’s work requires a person to sit in front of a computer screen. However, it’s the way you sit and type that is actually wreaking havoc on your muscles, joints, and bones. A recent study done in Iran found that 74% of office workers felt exhausted at work from sitting all day. This is where doing stretching exercises can help you improve blood flow and relieve your muscles and joints from the stress and pain.
In fact, did you know that only 20% of people claim to get the right amount of daily exercise, and of those that do, 48% say they are more efficient and productive at work!
Issues with pain at work
Work-related musculoskeletal pain often starts in the lower or upper part of the back but it can also affect other parts of the body. It can go up to the shoulders and neck, down to the elbows and arms, only to travel back to the neck and further down the back. The more you neglect it, the worse it becomes. Eventually, you can end up with more complicated issues such as pain even when resting and difficulty sleeping.
There are a lot of ergonomic issues revolving around improper sitting and how it negatively affects your back, neck, shoulders, wrists, hips, knees and more. An effective way to fight these issues is by doing stretching exercises at work that will help you alleviate the pain and feel better. If you make a habit out of it, you will do yourself a favor and your future self will thank you for it without a doubt.
Benefits of Exercise
Most people fail to see the great benefits that doing exercises can give them, or often think, “If I can’t do a full workout then there is no point!”.
Well, they are wrong!
Getting just a few minutes of exercise each day to increase your blood flow and get your joints and muscles moving properly can be super beneficial.
The obvious benefits are increased strength and flexibility. This will also give you the added endurance to move around or run when you exercise regularly. Numerous studies have also suggested that people who exercise regularly may have a better immune system and can fight off various viruses and diseases more efficiently.
In other words, your body functions better when you exercise and you feel better because of it. Exercising is beneficial because you can ward off stiffness and pain while boosting alertness and energy, giving you enough fuel to perform any daily tasks put before you. Both the American Physical Therapy Association and American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons agree that regular exercise will do wonders for your health.
The best thing about these exercises is that you can do them anywhere, either at work or at your desk. There are no more excuses and this will take only a few minutes of your time.
You can get rid of the pain. You will feel better.
A set of exercises to do at work
Before we go on with this, it’s important to mention that you won’t need any office exercise equipment to do this.
If, however you need a more robust workout, take a look at our article about the best office exercise equipment.
So without further ado, here are the best stretching exercises customized to suit your workspace.
1. Stand up without using your hands
Something as simple as standing up and sitting down without using your hands might sound easy, but don’t be too quick to judge before you’ve tried it. You probably get up out of your seat dozens of times a day, and each time you use your hands to push off and give you a boost.
Well, next time you do it, don’t use your hands. This is essentially a simplified version of a box squat. As opposed to a deep squat, the box squat targets the quadriceps (the front thigh muscles), and over the course of the day will give a fantastic workout.
2. Avoid sitting as much as you can
Focus on doing your daily duties but try to reduce the time you spend sitting. If your work allows it, lose the chair and replace it with an exercise ball or a treadmill. It’s important that you engage the muscles in your legs, back and all over the body, and stay balanced.
Not only will it make your body feel better, but you can also burn a few extra calories along the way, helping you with any weight loss goals you may have. And the best part, you don’t even have to interrupt your work to do this. So, substitute exercise for sitting while you are at work as much as you can, and your body will be grateful for it.
Adjustable standing desks are a fantastic way to get started as they give you the option of sitting and standing, moving effortlessly between the two.
3. Shoulder shrugging
A stretch as simple as shoulder shrugging can relieve stress, back and neck pain in just seconds. Breathing is important for maximizing the benefits of a stretch, so whatever you do, remember to breathe. To do the shoulder shrug, inhale as you lift your shoulders as high as you comfortably can and exhale as you gently release the stretch. Repeat this as needed whenever you get a chance.
Also, add a bit of fun to it to shed tension. You can combine moving your head up and down, left and right, to further relax. It might seem funny to you at first, but the more you do it, the more you will start noticing that you can move your head and shoulders much easier than before.
4. Air circles
The point of these stretching exercises is to bring back the mobility to the upper part of your body in order to relieve stress, pain, stiffness and other issues. The more you relax, the easier it will be to achieve your goal, which is, of course, better health, mobility, and no pain.
Stretch your hands in front of your body and start making air circles. Do ten circles in one direction and then change it. After you do it, shake out your hands and repeat the process three times. You can also do this process with your hands out to the side, just mak sure to keep your back and neck straight while you are doing it. Have a look at this quick video tutorial from Expert Village.
5. Wrist stretching mobility
It is very important to take care of your wrists at the office. Maybe finger pointing sounds a bit funny, but pointing the fingers skyward is good for your forearms, wrist, back, shoulders, neck, chest, and hands. What you do is point the palm of your left hand towards the floor and then use your right hand to pull the fingers back and up towards the ceiling. The more you pull, the more you increase the stretch. Do this stretch gently to avoid any unnecessary injuries.
When you finish with your left hand, do the same with the right.
This stretch is amazing for those who type on a keyboard all day long. Naturally with hours of typing your hands and wrists will become fatigued and the muscles will tighten, so this stretch will relieve any elbow, forearm, wrist, or hand tension you might be experiencing.
6. Torso twist
As mentioned before, muscular tension in office workers is most common in the back, especially the lower back. To ease this discomfort, try twisting your torso as you exhale. To do this, take a deep breath and try to grab the back of the chair as you exhale slowly. Twist your torso around as much as you comfortably can, turning your first head and letting the upper body follow naturally.
Continue with the stretch. Once you are done with it, and it should take only a couple of seconds, slowly come back and then repeat on the other side. If you don’t have any exercise equipment for the office that you can use to relieve stress and tension, this can be a useful stretch.
8. Hug yourself
Everyone needs a hug from time to time!
What you might not know is that a simple hug can help stretch your back and between the shoulder blades.
To do this stretch, lift one leg at a time (or two if you feel like you have the balance to do so), and use both arms to hug the leg towards your chest. You should feel a light stretch in your hamstring, glutes, and remember to relax the shoulders forward to open up and stretch the scapula.
Repeat the stretch a few times on each side.
9. Cross your arms
This is one of the most common exercises for warming up, very popular among athletes. It’s excellent for the upper back and shoulders. The point is to pull the elbow of one outstretched arm across your chest with the other hand. Once you do, hold for a second and then release and repeat. Do it three times with both hands.
10. Leg hug
No, you do not have to hug anyone with your legs. This is a hug that you need to do while sitting on a chair. It sounds a bit strange, but that’s how it is. Take a seat on the edge of the chair with your feet together and try to touch your knees with your chest while dangling your arms to release the stress in your neck.
Remember to breathe. To form a hug, put your hands behind your legs and try to reach your elbows with both hands. You should be able to feel a nice stretch in your neck, shoulders, and back. The chest too. Hold and repeat three times.
11. Neck exercises
Many people suffer from neck pains that come from an incorrect posture, bad desk height, and poor alignment of the computer screen. This is especially true if you use a laptop as you most likely have to look down at the screen.
Also, tall people seem to suffer more from these neck issues because generally, they will have to look down more when seated at a desk. Taller people should really look at standing desks like we mentioned in previously, and more specifically a good standing desk for tall people.
If your neck is aching especially after long periods at your desk, try a few of the exercises listed in the image above. More likely than not, you will feel your neck muscles ease up with the stretches.
12. Include a walk in your daily schedule when possible
If you are working in a big office, try to that you walk as much as possible. Most importantly, pay attention to how you hold your body while walking. Make sure that your back is straight and your head is up while your vision should be parallel to the floor. Some people even say, try to imagine your eyes having lines pointing directly to the horizon.
Research has shown that body posture is a key contributor to muscular pain. Your aches and pains may just be caused by the way you walk and sit. Your posture is key!
Don’t hunch your shoulders forward as you walk and try to keep your head up at all times.
Walking every day, even if only for a short distance, goes a long way to get the blood flowing, the joints moving, the muscles working, and hopefully, your heart and lungs will get a little workout too!
Exercising at work really doesn’t have to be such a chore; in fact, it’s amazing what progress you can make with the smallest amount of effort. More than anything, consistency is key, as well as gradual improvements or increases in resistance.
As we mentioned before, for the exercises above you don’t need a single piece of equipment. All you need is your office chair and some floor space. Once you feel ready to take the next step, you can invest in office workout equipment to give you an even better office workout.
This article has been reviewed and approved by Dr. Praveena Asokan.