By: Michelle Faber, NBC- HWC, EP-C
2020 has no doubt been a crazy year. Due to more people working at home or students doing virtual school from home, it’s led to many of us sitting at a desk, table or on the couch for several hours a day.
Sitting for too long, especially with poor posture, can wreak havoc on our muscles and our body. It can start to create stiffness, pain, headaches, injuries and musculoskeletal disorders. Proper ergonomics and breaks away from your desk to stretch and stand are important and will help you feel better. And if you feel better, you’ll work and learn better.
Stretching out during the workday or school day is a great way to get blood flowing through your muscles. Not only does it prevent injury and help you feel better — it gets you up and moving away from your computer and wakes you up. You can go back to school or work, better refreshed and ready to focus.
Here are some tips, exercises and stretches you can do at home (or anywhere) during the day.
1. When to Get Stretching
Aim to take brain breaks for stretching or mindfulness every 30-60 minutes throughout the day. If you know you’ll be on a conference call or focusing on a task for an extended period of time, take a second to stretch in the middle to keep yourself refreshed. If your child is learning virtually, take breaks together and do some stretching, light exercise or yoga. It will get their blood flowing and is even shown to improve grades and behavior. Cosmic Kids Yoga is free on YouTube and a great way to keep little ones engaged in fun stories while they do yoga stretches.
2. Tips for Getting Started
Be sure to prepare your body before jumping right in. Do some light exercises such as arm circles, arm swings (hugging yourself motion), squats and calf raises to get your body warmed up and then stretch out. Don’t worry — you don’t have to sweat! Don’t forget to focus on correct posture as well — this is a huge help for musculoskeletal disorders, stiffness and tightness.
3. Stretch it Out
Get started with these stretches – hold for 10 to 12 seconds each at the beginning and work your way up to 30 seconds.
- Neck stretch: Take your right hand and pull your neck down to right shoulder and repeat with the left side. Next, move your chin from your right shoulder to your left.
- Doorway stretch: Stand tall with arms in the air and hands clasped together — bend to the left and then to the right.
- Obliques stretch: Put your left hand on your left hip, take your right hand and reach it over head to the left side. Repeat on the other side.
- Cat to Cow back stretch: On all fours, gently switch between arching your back like a cat as you look down at the floor and dipping your back like a cow as you look upwards.
- Calf stretch: While holding a chair, keep one leg back with your knee straight and heel flat on floor. Slowly bend your elbows and front knee until you feel a stretch in your calf — repeat on the other side.
- Hamstring stretch: Prop your heel on a low surface and bend forward towards your flexed foot.
- Yoga: Have some extra time for stretching? Do a quick yoga session. Down dog is a great app that allows for a quick yoga break or longer sessions as well.
Use these tips to take a quick break from the work or school day, get up and stretch. It will help you feel better, prevent some injuries and help you to be more productive when you return to work. Most importantly — have fun with it. Turn on some music, grab your kids and just move.
About the Author: Michelle Faber, NBC- HWC, EP-C is a national board-certified health and wellness coach on the wellness team at Priority Health. She has a passion for helping individuals find their motivation and purpose to make and sustain healthy lifestyle changes in all areas of life. Michelle is certified as an Exercise Physiologist through the American College of Sports Medicine and loves working with people who are managing chronic disease, pregnancy, and exercise in young children and families. She is also an Orthopedic Specialist through the American Council on Exercise.