Seventy per cent of Australians are pretty much sedentary. Caitlin Reid explains 10 simple stretches you can do at your desk to ease muscle aches and pains and prevent them turning into bigger problems.
We're not designed to sit for extended periods of time in the one position. That's why the typical desk job is linked to obesity, back pain and muscle imbalances. According to one US study, men who sit at their desk for six hours or longer have an increased risk of obesity, particularly when compared to men who sit down for less than an hour a day. Then there's the back, neck and shoulder pain. Sitting at a desk can lead to shrinkage of the deep muscles in the back. The hours spent leaning forward to see the computer screen can shorten stomach muscles and overstretch and loosen back muscles. Irrespective of whether it is muscle shrinkage or imbalances, tension and injury can result. Relieve muscle tension by taking a short break every hour to do a few of these stretches. Don't forget, your body was made to move.
10 stretches you can do anywhere, any time
1. Wrist stretch
Grasp the fingers of your right hand with your left. Bend your wrist down, so your fingers are pointing towards the floor. When you feel a stretch, stop and hold for 10 seconds. Bend your wrist up, so your fingers point to the roof. When you feel a stretch, hold for 10 seconds. Repeat five times.
2. Spinal rotation
Seated in your chair, with both feet flat on the floor, reach your right hand across your body and grab the left hand side of the chair. Look over your left shoulder while you rotate the low and mid back. Hold for 10 seconds and then swap sides. Repeat five times.
3. Standing back curl
Place your hands in the small of your back. Slowly lean backwards until you feel a slight stretch. Keep your knees slightly bent. Hold the stretch for five seconds and repeat 10 times.
4. Seated back curl
Seated in your chair, grab your left shin with your left hand. Lift your left leg off the floor, stopping level with the chair. Bend forward at the hips, curling your back and reaching your nose to your knee. Hold for 10 seconds and repeat with the right leg. Repeat five times each side.
5. Ankle flex and stretch
Sit in your chair and stretch out your right leg. Flex your foot so your toes are pointed to the roof. Slowly lower your toes, to extend and point. Hold for five seconds and repeat 10 times. Repeat for the left leg.
6. Head tilt
Slowly lower your head to the right. Hold for 10 seconds. Then slowly lower your head to the left, holding for 10 seconds also. Lower your head forward, hold for 10 seconds, and then backwards for 10 seconds. Repeat five times.
7. Shoulder shrug
Keeping both arms by your side, shrug your shoulders up towards your ears. Hold for 10 seconds, before rolling and lowering your shoulders backwards. Repeat five times.
8. Side stretch
Interlace your fingers and lift your hands above your head. Keep elbows straight, and push your arms back as far as you can. Slowly lean left and hold for 10 seconds, then lean right. You can do this standing or sitting. Repeat five times each side.
9. Leg lift
Sit up straight in your chair, with feet flat on the floor. Straighten your right leg and flex your foot. Slowly lift towards the roof. Hold for 10 seconds and repeat with the other leg. Repeat five times.
10. Chest stretch
Keep both arms at your side, bend elbows to 90 degrees. Squeeze shoulder blades together, as you pull shoulders down. Hold for 10 seconds, repeat five times.
Australian research shows that getting up from your desk can reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes. The more often you take breaks, the lower your waist circumference, BMI, and levels of triglycerides and glucose in your blood. The effort of standing can double your metabolic rate.