immunity & wellness

Benefits of Stretching at Work

Did you know that the average adult in the U.S. sits for 6.5 hours per day [1]? With more of us working from home these days, we can find ourselves sitting in our office chair more than we might like. Adding some stretches breaks in your workday routine can bring a host of benefits. 

Read on to learn more and add some of these easy tricks into your day! 

 

 

Reduced Fatigue

If you find yourself feeling tired when the afternoon rolls around, don’t pour yourself another shot of espresso. Instead, try doing some stretches.

fatigue tired man

This might seem a bit strange at first. In reality, though, stretching at the workplace does an excellent job at combatting fatigue and helping workers to feel more energized throughout the day. 

When you stretch, more blood flows to your brain and your muscles. This, in turn, delivers more oxygen and nutrients to these areas and gets rid of metabolic wastes, including carbon dioxide, uric acid, and ammonia [2]. 

 

 

Improved Posture

How’s your posture when you’re sitting at your desk? Do you sit with your back straight, feet flat on the floor, and neck perfectly balanced above your shoulders? Didn’t think so. 

You might start the day with the best of intentions for your posture, but by the time your lunch break arrives, you’ve likely started so let your shoulders creep up toward your ears and noticed your back beginning to round.

Regular stretching throughout the workday can help to improve your posture [3]. It lengthens tight muscles and makes it easier for you to sit comfortably with good posture all day long.

 

 

Better Coordination and Balance

Studies show that regular stretching can help to improve your coordination and balance, too [4]. This likely has to do with the fact that it increases proprioception (or awareness of your body in space). 

This might not seem that important now. In the future, though, it can help you to avoid trips and falls, both of which can lead to serious injuries as you age.

 

 

Reduced Injury Risk

In general, office work or remote work doesn’t seem like it’s particularly high-risk. You might not be at risk of falls or broken bones the way you might be if you worked on a construction site, but you are vulnerable to other types of injuries, including repetitive strain injuries. 

injured arm

Repetitive strain injuries occur when you perform the same motions day after day without sufficient rest [5]. A good example of an office-related repetitive strain injury is carpal tunnel syndrome from typing or using a computer mouse.  

When you make time for stretching at work, you can give your muscles, tendons, and joints much-needed breaks. This allows for more blood flow to these areas and a chance to combat some of the repetitive motions you put them through each day.

 

 

Increased Productivity

We all want to be as productive as possible while on the job, don’t we? Stretching breaks can help to make that happen. 

Studies show that taking regular breaks helps workers to get more done during the workday [6]. If you add some stretching to your break time, it’s possible that you’ll feel even more refreshed when the break is over since you’ve increased blood flow and taken a break from screens (instead of switching from staring at your computer screen to staring at your phone screen). 

 

 

Increased Creativity

Finally, regular workplace stretching can help you to be more creative and innovative at work. 

Movement of all kinds, including stretching, boosts blood flow throughout the body. It also gives you a chance to look at problems in a new way [7]. 

By stepping away from your desk and doing some stretches, you might find that you have an easier time addressing difficult tasks and finding new solutions to old challenges.

 

 

Better Mood

Stretching can improve your mood, too. If you find yourself feeling agitated or stressed out while working, spending a few minutes stretching can help. 

Remember, stretching provides fresh blood, oxygen, and nutrients to your brain, which is great for your mood and helping you to change your perspective on the way the day is going. 

Stretching also produces endorphins. Endorphins are feel-good chemicals that have been shown to improve your mood and combat pain [8]. 

 

 

The Best Stretches for Desk Workers

Want to start stretching but don’t know what to do? Here are some of the best stretches for desk workers (you can even do some of them while sitting down) [9, 10]:

 

Chest Stretch

If you sit or stand with your back rounded a lot, you’ll likely find that your chest and shoulder muscles are tight. To combat these issues, try this stretch:


  • Sit or stand up straight
  • Clasp your hands together behind your back
  • Rotate your elbows inward as you straighten out your arms
  • Lift your arms up behind you until you feel a nice stretch in your chest
  • Hold for about 5-10 seconds

 

Seated Spinal Twist

neck stretch physical therapy

Seated spinal twists feel great for your back and neck, and they give you a chance you move your spine in ways you might not normally move it during the day. Here are some cues to do this stretch correctly:


  • Sit up straight in your chair with your feet flat on the floor or wrapped around your chair legs for extra stability
  • Reach across your body with your right hand and grasp the back of your chair if possible
  • Pull gentle to create a deeper stretch
  • Hold for about 5-10 seconds, then switch sides

 

Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch

When you sit, your hips are in a flexed position. This can create tightness in your hip flexors (the muscles that connect your legs to your torso. This kneeling hip flexor stretch is a great way to address this problem:


  • Kneel down on your right knee
  • Step forward with your left foot and bend your left knee at a 90-degree angle
  • Keep your back straight and tuck your hips under to stretch your hip flexor
  • Hold for about 30 seconds, then switch sides

 

Seated Hip Stretch

This seated hip stretch is great for the glutes, which are likely tight from sitting all day long:


  • Sit on your chair with a straight back
  • Cross the right ankle over the left knee
  • Lean forward until you feel a gentle stretch in your glute
  • Hold this stretch for up to 1 minute, then switch sides

 

 

Tips for Sticking to a Stretching Routine

Need help making stretching a regular part of your routine? The following are some ideas that can make it easier for you to include stretches in your workday:

 

Set Reminders

Do you ever get so enveloped in your work that you forget to take a break? 

When you’re in the zone, it’s easy to convince yourself to keep pushing through and take a break “later.” If you go too long without stretching or resting, though, you’ll be more likely to feel burned out or deal with cramps or muscle strains. 

To avoid running into this issue, try setting reminders so that you don’t forget to take stretching breaks. Set alarms on your phone or computer, for example, so that you stop a few times throughout the day to move your body and take care of your muscles and joints. 

 

Try Habit Stacking

Another way to incorporate stretching into your daily routine is to stack it with another habit. 

Habit stacking involves combining a new habit with a pre-existing one [11]. Using an already-established habit as a reminder is easier than trying to create a new habit from scratch.

What are some habits that you could stack a stretching break with? 

Perhaps your mid-morning coffee break? How about filling up your water bottle? You could get up from your desk to hit the water cooler and mix in your hydration packet, then take a couple of minutes to stretch before getting back to work. Staying hydration (with the help of products like Hydrant) can also keep your muscles well lubricated and loose. 

 

Find a Buddy

You might also want to consider teaming up with an accountability buddy. Do you have a friend in the office who could also benefit from regular stretching? 

There are lots of ways to make this happen. Try taking five minutes to stretch together at lunch, for example, or check-in with each other via text, email, or instant message after you’ve done your daily stretches. Or, if working remotely, schedule a daily stretch break together virtually.

 

Start an Office Stretching Program

If there are lots of folks in your office who want to start stretching, maybe you can talk to your boss about establishing an office stretching program. 

If you can get people on board and set aside some time each day (before work and at lunchtime are popular options) for group stretching, research shows that these kinds of programs can have significant physical and mental health benefits for employees [12]. If working remotely, start morning meetings with a stretch break or incorporate it into a virtual happy hour! 

 

 

Time to Start Stretching at Work

Now that you know the importance of stretching at work, it’s time to make it part of your routine. Schedule a few stretching breaks into your day so you can keep your joints healthy, reduce potential injury, give your brain a well-deserved rest, and be more productive than ever!

 

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Sources

[1]  Searing, Linda. The Big Number: The Average US Adult Sits 6.5 Hours a Day. The Ledger. https://www.theledger.com/news/20190428/big-number-average-us-adult-sits-65-hours-day
[2] The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. Why Stretching Is More Important Than You Think. https://wexnermedical.osu.edu/blog/benefits-of-stretching#:~:text=Stretching%20increases%20blood%20flow%2C%20boosts,dioxide%2C%20ammonia%20and%20uric%20acid
[3] OR Today Magazine. Stretching Improves Flexibility, Posture & Balance. https://ortoday.com/stretching-improves-flexibility-posture-balance/#:~:text=Stretching%20can%20help%20increase%20your,and%20help%20you%20stay%20balanced
[4] Reddy, R. S., & Alahmari, K. A. (2016). Effect of Lower Extremity Stretching Exercises on Balance in Geriatric Population. International journal of health sciences, 10(3), 389–395.
[5] Hecht, Marjorie. Everything You Should Know About Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI). Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/repetitive-strain-injury
[6] Selig, Meg. How Do Work Breaks Help Your Brain? 5 Surprising Answers. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/changepower/201704/how-do-work-breaks-help-your-brain-5-surprising-answers
[7] S. Colzato, L., Szapora, A., Pannekoek, J. N., & Hommel, B. (2013). The impact of physical exercise on convergent and divergent thinking. Frontiers in human neuroscience, 7, 824. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnhum.2013.00824
[8] Close, Chaudhry SR, Gossman W. Biochemistry, Endorphin. [Updated 2020 Aug 11]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2020 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK470306/
[9] Depaul University. Upper Body Stretches. https://offices.depaul.edu/environmental-health-and-safety/ergonomics/exercises/Pages/upper-body-stretches.aspx
[10] Gillespie, Claire. 7 Stretches to Relieve Tight Hips. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/tight-hips#symptoms
[11] Clear, James. How to Build New Habits by Taking Advantage of Old Ones. https://jamesclear.com/habit-stacking
[12] Moore TM. A workplace stretching program. Physiologic and perception measurements before and after participation. AAOHN J. 1998 Dec; 46(12):563-8. PMID: 10025248.

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