It can be hard to stay active when you’re stuck behind a desk all day.
Add endless Zoom meetings and months’ worth of canceled plans into the mix, and many of us are breaking personal records for hours spent sitting.
And as you may have noticed, the longer you sit, the worse you feel.
Sitting for too long can lead to tight muscles, stiff joints, and. lower back pain — not to mention sapped energy stores.
The good news is, you can help counteract all that chair time with a few quick-but-effective stretching exercises that target the entire body.
Add one (or more) of these stretching exercises into your WFH routine when you need to relax and loosen your muscles after a long day of sitting.
1. World’s Greatest Stretch
This dynamic stretch hits multiple muscle groups, including the calves, hamstrings, quads, glutes, lower back, shoulders, chest, and neck.
“If there’s one stretch to choose when you’re short on time, this one would be an excellent pick,” says April Whitney, a NASM-certified personal trainer and creator of Petite PWR.
- Begin in a straight-arm plank with your hands directly under your shoulders.
- Step your left foot towards the outside of your left hand.
- Tap your left elbow against the inside of your left foot, calf, or knee (this will depend on your mobility). Then, rotate your torso to extend your left arm overhead, reach your fingertips toward the ceiling. Follow with your gaze.
- Reverse the movement to return to plank. Repeat on the opposite side. Do 8 reps per side.
2. Standing Hamstring Scoop
“This stretch targets the hamstrings primarily, but in reaching the hands above the head and stretching the entire body, it also helps stretch the upper body as well,” Whitney says.
- Stand with feet hip-width apart.
- Shift your weight into the left foot and extend your right leg forward with your heel on the ground, toes pointed toward the ceiling, and right knee straight.
- Bend your left knee and sit back into your hips. Reach both arms towards your right foot and lift them overhead in one fluid “scooping” motion.
- Repeat on the opposite leg. Perform 8-10 reps per side.
3. Supine Figure-Four Stretch
This move stretches out the glutes, hip adductors, and external hip rotators, which helps open up tight hips after sitting for long periods, Whitney says.
- Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
- Cross your right ankle over your left knee. Floss your right hand through your legs and interlace your fingers behind your left thigh. Keep both feet flexed.
- Gently pull your left knee toward your chest until you feel a stretch in your right glute and hip. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds.
- Release and repeat. Do 2 to 3 reps per side.
4. Chest Stretch
If you’re spending a lot of time hunched over a desk, your posture can suffer. Undo rounding of the upper back and shoulders with this simple stretch, says Stephanie Mansour, an AFAA-certified personal trainer in Chicago, IL.
- While sitting or standing, clasp your hands behind your back so your arms are fully extended.
- Pull your arms back and drive the shoulders down to open your chest. Lift your head to look up towards the ceiling.
- Hold for three deep breaths and release. Perform this stretch hourly when you’re sitting for an extended period of time.
5. Ear to Shoulder Stretch
This simple stretch lengthens the sides of your neck, helping relieve neck and shoulder tension from sitting in front of a screen for hours, according to Mansour.
- Sit or stand tall and gently drop your right ear toward your right shoulder while simultaneously trying to drive the left shoulder down (away from the left ear).
- Hold for three breaths. Then, release and repeat on the opposite side.
- Perform this stretch hourly when you’re sitting for an extended period of time.