Five Stretches You Can Do While Sitting at Your Desk—Plus, Why It's So Important
Do you spend your workday sitting at a desk? Here's why you should take three minutes out of every hour to stretch.
Entertainment executive Tracey Edmonds has earned her seat at the tables where high-profile and high-powered deals are being made. (She's the producer behind movies like Soul Food, New in Town, Jumping the Broom, and the new BET series Games, as well as a featured co-host on Extra.) Although her workday varies, Edmonds shares that she's sometimes on set for 12 to 14 hours a day. "I spend a lot of sedentary hours at my desk reading, emailing, on telephone calls, and in meetings regarding my projects," Edmonds shares. "I frequently average seven hours a day sitting at a desk." But for the 52-year-old health-conscious Edmonds, sitting for hours on end without moving her body is never part of the deal. She makes a point to make time to stretch each day. "Getting into a stretching routine at work helps increase your productivity levels. Stretching helps you to be more focused, less stressed, and more energetic when you return to the desk to tackle your next task," offers Edmonds.
She taps into her passion for health and wellness through her brand AlrightNow, which offers resources on how to make healthy lifestyle decisions and connect with curated experts in the health and wellness spaces, along with trusted doctors, spiritual leaders, and top-tier chefs. "Throughout my life and my career, I have searched for ways to improve myself, build fortitude, and access a higher wisdom to help me along the way," Edmonds shares. "As a result, healthy eating, yoga, and meditation have become essential disciplines I have practiced every day for decades now."
Why You Should Stretch at Your Desk
"Most of us have experienced time at work when we are sitting at our desk and trying to get work done, but our brain feels like it's stuck or blocked," Edmonds explains. "Stretching and movement really helps alleviate 'brain fog' for me. 'Brain fog' can lead to unproductiveness and none of us can afford to lose time or momentum on projects." Stretching has many benefits: First, it improves energy levels. Muscles tighten when they have been sedentary, which causes us to feel tired and lethargic. When this happens, it helps to stand up and do some stretches, which will help quickly revitalize your energy levels. Stretching also promotes blood circulation, which helps to promote cell growth, organ function, and lowers the heart rate, improving overall health.
It's not just about your body, though. Stretching also encourages an optimistic outlook: A buildup of stress can have a negative impact on your mind and body by causing muscles to contract and creating tension. Plus, by taking a little time to stretch, you're encouraging your brain to release endorphins; this, in turn, provides a sense of tranquility and euphoria (and it may also promote good sleep). One of the most immediate benefits of stretching is improving flexibility and range of motion, but you'll also find that stretching the muscles of the lower back, chest, and shoulders can help keep the spine in better alignment and improve overall posture.
If you're worried about remembering to stretch between the hours of 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., Edmonds suggests grabbing a work buddy and beginning a regular stretching practice together. "Sometimes, it just helps having someone to do things with you. You kind of motivate each other. While we feel like we can be independent sometimes, and do all of these things on our own, having that extra person to push you a little bit and having someone else there really helps," says Edmonds, whose wellness practice often includes her loved ones-her fiancé, former professional athlete and sports commentator, Deion Sanders, and her sons.
This move relaxes the neck and shoulder muscles, improving posture. Begin by positioning your feet hips width apart or you can use the front edge of your desk chair and place your feet on the floor. If you're a beginner, brace yourself by placing your left hand on your desk. If you're more advanced, you can keep your arm at your side. Position your right hand on the left side of your head and gently pull your head toward your right shoulder. Breathe in and out five times and the repeat on the opposite side.
This stretch loosens up the hips and waist. Begin by positioning your feet hips width apart. Inhale and stretch your arms toward the ceiling with your fingers interlaced pointing up. Exhale while stretching up and sideways to the left. Hold that position for five breaths. Return to the beginning center position and repeat on the right side.
Modified Pigeon Pose in a Chair
This stretch loosens up and strengthens the lower back. Begin by using your desk chair to sit in the front edge with your feet flat on the floor. Cross your right ankle over your left knee. Extend both arms up as your exhale, then scoot your buttocks back in the chair and stretch your arms forward. For a more advanced move, you can put your arms on the floor or on your desk. Hold for five breaths, then the repeat on the left side of your body.
Forward Bend with Hands Interlaced
This move stretches the torso and back and improves posture. Begin by positioning your feet hips width apart, then slightly bend your knees. Interlace your fingers behind your back. Exhale and bend forward from your hip area as you move your arms overhead while releasing your hands. Hold for ten breaths, then release your arms as you rise up keeping your knees slightly bent.
Cat Cow Pose
This exercise can loosen and stretch the neck and provide a gentle massage to the spine and stomach while giving the body energy. Begin by positioning yourself on the floor on your hands and knees. Be sure to position your needs hips width apart. Exhale as you curve your spine toward the ceiling. Release your head toward the floor. Inhale and return to beginning position. Exhale as you lift your chest area toward the ceiling while letting your belly sink downward toward the floor. Repeat back and forth.