Sitting down often feels relaxing, but it can be surprisingly tough on your body. Staying in the seated position for a long time can cause some of your muscles to tighten up, causing discomfort and pain, and others to atrophy.
Quick stretching routines to consider
If you work at a desk all day, you might not be able to avoid sitting for long periods, but you can do a few easy and quick stretching routines throughout the day to keep your muscles flexible and your body comfortable. These stretches target areas that tighten up when you sit, and you can do many of them from your chair! Add some or all of them to your daily routine — your body will thank you.
Up and down: Bend your head forward at the neck, bringing your chin down to your chest. Hold for a few seconds. Then bend your head backward, looking up to the ceiling, and reaching your chin up overhead and as far back as you can. Hold for a few seconds. Repeat four more times.
Right to left: Turn your head to the right as far as you can, looking over your shoulder. Hold for a few seconds. Turn your head to the left as far as you can, looking over your shoulder. Hold for a few seconds. Repeat four more times.
Slow roll: Bend your head backward at the neck, looking up to the ceiling, then slowly roll your head from right shoulder to left shoulder and back again, repeating five times. Next, bend your head forward at the neck, bringing your chin down to your chest, then slowly roll your head back and forth from right shoulder to left shoulder and back again, repeating five times.
Shoulder shrug: Lift your shoulders toward your ears as high as you can as if doing an exaggerated shrug. Hold for a few seconds, then drop your shoulders back down, relaxing them. Repeat four more times.
Shoulder roll: Roll your shoulders backward slowly in large circles, trying to bring your shoulder blades together as you roll them back. Repeat several times.
Forearm stretch: Stretch your right arm out in front of you, with your elbow facing down and your palm facing up. Then bend your hand at the wrist so your fingers are now pointing down and with your palm now facing forward. Use your left hand to gently pull your right hand fingers toward you. Hold for 20 seconds. Switch sides, then repeat two more times on each side.
Chest opener: Extend your arms being your back and clasp your hands together, palms together. Breathe in and look up to the ceiling. As you exhale, pull your hands downward and pull your shoulder blades backwards, trying to widen your chest. Hold for 20 seconds. Repeat two more times.
Torso and spine
Seated twist: While seated in a chair, place your feet flat on the ground at hip-distance apart. As you continue to sit tall with good posture, twist your torso to the right as far as you can, using your hands to help you, with your right hand grabbing the back of your chair and your left hand on your right armrest. Hold for 20 seconds, then slowly twist back to face front. Then do the same on the opposite side, twisting your torso to the left as far as you can, with your left hand grabbing the back of your chair and your right hand on your left armrest. Hold for 20 seconds, then slowly twist back to face front. Repeat two more times on each side.
Reach for the sky: Stretch both arms up over your head, then interlock your fingers, with your palms facing the ceiling. As you sit up straight, push your palms up toward the ceiling, and elongate your spine. Hold for 20 seconds. Then bend and lean over toward your right side as you continue to stretch your arms up and out. Hold for 20 seconds. Then move back toward center then lean over to the left to do the same on the opposite side. Hold for 20 seconds. Repeat two more times.
Seated figure “4” hip stretch: While seated in a chair, place your feet flat on the ground at hip-distance apart. Lift your right leg and cross your right ankle over your left knee, so that your legs make a sort of figure “4” shape. Flex your foot, then keep your back straight as you lean forward over your legs. If it’s comfortable, you can gently press down on your right knee for more of a stretch. Hold for 20 seconds. Switch sides, and repeat two more times on each side.
Hip flexor lunge: Stand with one foot in front of the other, at hip distance apart, and plant your feet. Then with hands on your hips, bend both knees, so that your front knee juts forward and your back knee drops a bit toward the ground. Finally, push your hips forward until you feel a stretch in the front of your hip — in your hip flexor — on the back leg, and hold for 20 seconds. Switch sides so that you can stretch your opposite hip, and repeat two more times on each side.
Wall calf stretch: Stand facing a wall with your feet hip-distance apart. Flex the toes of your right foot back, place your heel on the floor and the ball of your foot against the wall. Hold for 20 seconds. Switch legs, then repeat two more times on each side.
As you do all these stretches, be sure to engage with them in a way that’s comfortable for you and don’t push yourself past your limits of flexibility. And be sure to speak with your healthcare provider if you have questions about what sort of physical activity — including stretching — is right for you.