Workplace wellness:
The importance of stretching

September 2022

Do you work at a desk all day? Sitting in front of a computer or at a desk for at least eight hours a day can wreak havoc on the body.

Studies have shown that staying in the same position for hours at a time not only creates muscle tension, but can also contribute to long-term health issues, including:

  • Neck and shoulder pain
  • Headaches
  • Obesity
  • Stress
  • Lower back pain
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome

According to health experts, if you’ve been sitting at your desk for 30 minutes or more, you’ve been sitting too long. Adding some stretching breaks to your workday routine can bring a host of benefits, including:

  • Improving posture, which reduces back, neck and shoulder pain
  • Improving flexibility, leaving your muscles feeling less tense
  • Improving fitness and boosting endorphins, reducing stress
  • Preventing muscle injury such as strains and sprains
  • Leaving you feeling refreshed, thereby increasing productivity

Stretching is beneficial to the overall health of the body and plays a role in reducing musculoskeletal disorders among employees. Experts recommend that you stretch daily in order to see benefits. Ideally, you should aim for 5 to 15 minutes of stretching per day.

You can download one of the free apps such as Stand Up! or Break Reminder, which allow you set a recurring timer to remind you to get up from your desk at certain intervals over the course of your workday.

While you won’t start noticing the benefits of stretching straight away, your body will thank you for the daily stretches you give it during a long day of sitting at a desk. And remember, you will need to stick to regular stretching sessions in order for your muscles and joint to become more flexible. 

To get you started with a stretching routine, here are five simple ways you can stretch at work, without even having to leave your desk.

Shoulder shrug: Lift your shoulders up towards your ears, squeezing them as hard as you can. Hold the position for 1 to 2 seconds and then roll your shoulders back as you relax down. Repeat 10 times and then roll your shoulders forward.

Sit-to-stand-no-hands: Stand up from sitting without using your hands. Repeat 20 times. This exercise will help strengthen the muscles in your thighs.

Extend your spine: Sit up tall in a chair or stand up. Stretch your arms overhead and interlock your fingers. Turn your palms to the ceiling; lift your chin to the ceiling, allowing your head to tilt back. Look up to the ceiling and inhale deeply, then exhale deeply, and release.  

Neck stretch: While sitting down in your chair, gently reach your arm over your head and pull on the opposite ear while guiding your head to your shoulder. By bending your neck slowly, and bringing your ear to your shoulder, you will feel a deep stretch in the opposite side of your neck. Switch sides, and repeat.

Seated spinal twist: Sit up straight in your chair with your feet flat on the floor. Reach across your body with your right hand and grasp the back of your chair if possible. Pull gently to create a deeper stretch. Hold for about 5-10 seconds, then switch sides, and repeat.