For many, most days spent behind a desk. We’re bound by the computer during the day, which means being sat in front of it for hours on end.
Sitting for so long can take its toll on us. Stiff and sore backs, bad posture, dead legs, and feeling fatigued are just a few of the issues we can encounter after being stuck in the same place all day.
And although there’s not much we can do about needing to be there, there are things we can do to help ease some of the discomfort and look after our bodies after a long day at the desk.
What does sitting at a desk do to your body?
When you sit, you burn less energy than you do standing. If you spend the majority of your time sitting, this can easily lead to a sedentary lifestyle.
Even though you might be overwhelmingly busy and your mind is working hard, your body isn’t receiving the same sort of workout. By sitting for so long, you might find your energy levels decrease from a lack of exercise, and you begin to risk the other health conditions associated with being inactive.
Even if you’re hitting the gym often, 7+ hours a day spent without moving is likely to undo most of your hard work.
Another big downside of desk life is its effect on your back and your overall posture. Being hunched forward over a computer screen every day is likely to have an impact on your spine. It also affects the muscles in your legs and your glutes.
What are some tips for the desk bound?
Find the correct position:
Look for an ergonomic chair that supports your back in the right places and keeps your spine straight. Your screen should be positioned directly at your eye line so that you don’t need to bend your neck to look at it. Your feet should be flat on the floor, and your arms parallel as you type on the keyboard. Avoid crossing your legs for too long.
Stand for some periods:
If you can, a couple of times a day, stand while you work. Many standing desks allow you to do this comfortably and safely.
Move once an hour:
Even though you’re incredibly busy, try and move at least once an hour. It doesn’t need to be for any longer than 30 seconds to a minute. A trip to the toilet or getting a glass of water will do. Doing some form of movement each hour will help keep the blood flowing, your muscles activated and awake, and help to refresh your mind.
When you can: walk:
Because desk-bound jobs aren’t the most active ones, you need to be making up for this before work, after work, or at lunchtime. Get some steps in before your day starts. At lunchtime, get out for a walk and some fresh air. Walking meetings are the new thing, you know. Take the stairs instead of the lift. Little habits like this that you repeat every day can go a long way.
Your body will thank you for the daily stretches you give it before, after, and even during a long day of being at a desk. There are a couple of helpful exercises for desk workers to relieve some of the stress being seated has on the muscles and joints. They can also help to improve posture.
What desk stretches should you be doing?
Desk stretching is a great way to refresh the body and the mind. You can choose stretches that can be done sitting down for when you’ve only got a few minutes or stretches that require you to stand up when you’ve got a bit more time. Try and mix up the ones you choose and aim for numerous rounds of desk stretches throughout the day.
Stretches you can do seated
The shoulder shrug:
As simple as it sounds: move your shoulders up and down. Towards and away from your neck. Don’t compress your neck, and make sure the motion is coming from your shoulders. Repeat 10 to 12 times.
The spinal rotation:
Cross your arms by placing your hands on the opposite shoulder. Without moving your hips, rotate your torso all the way to the left. Hold for about 30 seconds. Then return to the centre and do the same on the right side.
The neck rotation:
From sitting or standing, keep your hips and chest facing forward at all times. Rotate your head all the way to the left-hand side, feeling the stretch in your neck. Return to the centre and repeat on the right-hand side.
The extended wrist rotation:
Reach your arm out in front of you and begin rotating the wrist in circular motions. Get it moving in both a clockwise and anticlockwise motion. Make sure to repeat on both sides.
The seated back stretch:
This stretch hold should help you to feel a release in your lower back. Make sure you’re sitting upright and place your hands on your lower back. Stretch backwards into your hands and let your head look up as you do so.
Stretches you can do standing
Standing shoulder stretch:
There are three different parts to this one to mobilise your shoulders at all angles. Start standing up and extend your arms out in front of you, interlocking your fingers. Stretch your arms out as far as you can, letting your head drop between your shoulders if that’s comfortable. Next, bring your arms up above your head and stretch them up as high as you can. Finally, bring your arms behind your back and interlock your fingers, stretching out in the same way. You should feel this one in your chest too. Do this as many times as feels right, and take your time in each position.
The forward fold:
Just as it sounds, bend yourself at the hips over straightened legs so that your torso folds over your legs. Hold onto your ankles to feel this stretch deep in your back and hold the position for 30 seconds or longer. You may find that you want to do this numerous times to allow yourself to fold a little further each time you’re stretching.
The side stretch:
Place your hands on your hips or even over your head and bend your body to the left side, making sure you continue to face forwards. Hold the stretch for around 30 seconds or as long as feels comfortable, and then do the same on the right side. Continue stretching one side and then the other to get the most out of the movement.
Glute stretch and hip opener:
Hold your hands at your chest with a bend in the arm and squat down to the floor. Your legs should be pretty wide apart, and your bottom almost touching the floor. Pressing the outside of your elbows against the inside of your knees will help you to feel this stretch deeper. Transfer the weight from one foot to the other, letting the knee move towards the floor as you do to make the most of the stretch.
Stretching during the day is a great way to check-in with how your body feels, lengthen the muscles, and help keep yourself moving during a non-active job. Making time for stretching just a couple of times every day will have long term benefits and help support you do in the gym.