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By Dr. Navita Basiwar, B.P.T, M.P.T. (Neuro), Atmantan Wellness Centre
04, MAY, 2020

Sitting kills: The heart attack rate is greater by 54% in people who sit for long hours and many studies have now essentially declared sitting as the new smoking. Most of us average about 9.3 hours of total sitting in a day and to break the vicious cycle should do the following to reduce the effects of the new smoking on our longevity:

1. While at work take frequent breaks
2. Engage in 5-10 minute walks and stretches (getup, walk after every 30-45 minutes and in between perform stretches)

Why is stretching at work important?

Sitting or standing at your workstation for long hours can cause multiple problems like muscle stiffness, strain in the neck, legs, back, etc.

Read more about How desk work can cause hunchback?

Have You Taken a Stretch Break Today? …….

The human body was designed to hunt not to sit idle. Regular stretching of major muscle groups helps to reduce the chances of muscle injury and stiffness. These stretches should be done at least 3 times a day in office with each stretch holding for at least 10 seconds and repeat for 2-3 times.

1. Neck Stretch:

Sitting long hours at a desk creates a lot of tension in the neck muscles and if there is no movement then the muscle goes into fatigue and spasm and finally leads to pain in the neck or tension headache as well. This simple stretch relieves the tension from neck muscles and maintains neck mobility. Hold the right hand just above the left ear and bend the neck sideways to the right side to stretch left side neck muscles.

2. Shoulder Stretch

When working at a desk or in front of laptops, because of crunched position or workstation the shoulder blade muscles are always in a lengthened position as the arms are working away from the body. It’s important to stretch these muscles to avoid pain in the upper back. This is done by a simple stretch shown below.

  • Sit comfortably in a chair or stand with your back straight.
  • Reach your right arm across your body, just under your chin at about shoulder level.
  • Place your left hand on the outside of your right elbow and pull arm gently toward your left shoulder.

3. Fingers and forearm stretch

When working on laptops the work area is very small which tires the muscles at an accelerated pace. When working with the desktop the frequent use of mouse makes the wrist and forearm muscles fatigued as the repetition of movement is involved and can finally lead to pain and tingling in wrist or fingers called carpel tunnel syndrome. So frequent stretching of small muscles is important as they get tired soon. Keep the left hand straight with palms facing up. Then hold fingers with the right hand and pull inwards towards you.

4. Side trunk stretch

Sitting for long hours makes the back muscles stiff and painful. This restricts the side to side mobility. Interlace both the hands together and stretch up from the shoulders and then bend sideways or forward to stretch the lateral trunk muscles.

5. Anterior chest stretch

Working in front of desktop for hours together makes our anterior shoulder (pectorals) and chest muscles tight which further reduces the mobility and expansion of the lungs. To stretch these muscles, hold both hands behind the head, stretch both shoulders back and take a long deep breath. This relieves all the tension from the shoulder and chest muscles.

6. Upper back stretch

Continuous sitting in front of a desktop or a laptop increases the tension in the neck and upper back muscles especially the trapezius and interscapular muscles. This also can further lock the adjoining facet joints and reduce thoracic mobility. This can be avoided with a simple stretch shown below.

  • Stand or sit comfortably with maintain spin straight.
  • Interlock fingers and palm facing outward
  • Stretch your palm, elbow, and shoulder outwards

Also read How to get rid of lower back pain?

7. Spinal rotation

People sitting for the whole day in the office generally suffer from a stiff back and reduced mobility of the spine. Mostly the rotation movement in the spine is affected because of the compressive forces during sitting. To open up the spine and increase the flexibility this stretch is helpful. Just sit straight at the edge of the chair, hold hands on the backrest, and rotate either side.