Sitting all day long can be a literal pain in the next. Not only does sitting for prolonged periods of time put stress on your muscles, but it can also cause persistent soreness and stiffness. And matters are only made worse if your posture is poor.
As a personal trainer and group fitness instructor, I often witness the negative effects sitting at a desk all day takes on my clients. Stiffness and lack of mobility - especially in the neck and shoulder area - is often a sign your body isn’t getting enough movement throughout the day.
5 Upper Body Stretches to Combat Stiffness & Ease Pain
Unless you work for a progressive company that offers standing desks to employees, there aren’t many ways to get around sitting at work. But there are some measures you can take to help ease the stress sitting takes on your upper body. In addition to getting up every so often during the workday for a walk around the office, here are five stretching techniques (plus one posture exercise!) to practice throughout the day to loosen up any tightness in your neck and shoulders caused by sitting.
Chest opener in the doorway or on the wall
Much of the time we’re sitting at work, we’re not paying attention to our posture. We tend to arch our backs and slouch our shoulders forward which can result in very tight chest muscles. In order to correct the posture, we need to perform a counter stretch on the chest muscles - a chest opening stretch! Good news, you can do this one easily at work! All you need to complete this chest opener is a wall or doorway. As per the video, explore different angles of this chest opener to find what feels best for you. When you find a tight spot, hold the stretch for 30 seconds to 1 minute.
Chest & back body stretch on a desk, chair or couch
This is another great stretch for opening the chest and shoulders while also stretching the lower back and hamstrings! You can perform this stretch on a sofa or even your desk. Standing near the arm of your sofa or edge of your desk, bend over at a 90-degree angle and place your hands on the desk or sofa, making an upsidedown L-shape with your body. Breathe in deeply and when you breathe out, slowly bend your knees, letting the weight of your body open your chest and shoulders. Breath in a straighten your legs to get a wonderful back body stretch.
Standing shoulder rotations
If you don’t have a door, wall, desk or sofa handy, try standing shoulder rotations. Standing tall with your arms at your sides, rotate your shoulders up towards your ears, back and down to create a circle. You can also extend your arms for this once, creating large circles with your arms. Pro tip: try not to arch your lower back when performing this move!
Behind the back chest opener
Another great chest and shoulder opener is a behind-the-back stretch. Standing tall, reach your arms behind you and interlace all 10 fingers. Gently lift your arms as much as is comfortable for a deep chest and shoulder stretch. To go even deeper, you can slowly bend forward, letting your arms follow.
Standing neck stretch
Another part of your body that takes a beating from being hunched over a computer is your neck. To ensure mobility and reduce stiffness or tension headaches, try this standing neck stretch! Standing tall, place your right hand right above your left ear and tilt your head to the right; hold for 15-20 seconds and switch sides. Pro tip: make sure to tuck your chin to prevent further strain on your neck - and don’t forget to breath!
A Foolproof Way to Keep Your Posture in Check
Last, but not least, it’s important to keep your posture in mind during the workday to prevent muscle aches. My favourite trick to help keep my clients’ posture in check simple requires a tennis ball. Place the ball between your office chair and your upper back (right between your shoulder blades); if the ball falls, that means you’re arching your back and aren’t maintaining optimal posture. If you can keep the ball in place, your posture is golden!