Office movements and stretching

Stretching exercises for stationary desk jobs.

It is well known that physical activity is an important part of our overall health. It provides a wealth of benefits for our bodies and our wellbeing, including weight loss, reduction of stress and being in a better mood. When you have a job that involves sitting for long periods of time, getting up and moving periodically throughout the day is important for your health. But what about the rest of the day that involves sitting to complete your work in a timely manner? There are some things you can do to provide an overall healthier work day for yourself, such as moving periodically at your desk or around the office and eating healthy snacks.

Michigan State University Extension advises that working at a computer station for long periods of time during the day can be tiring on joints and muscles. Having a comfortable posture that provides a neutral position of your body is beneficial towards overall health when working a sedentary job. Neutral body positioning is described by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) as, “a comfortable working posture in which your joints are naturally aligned.” Improper body position can lead to neck aches, headaches and frustration. When positioning yourself in the proper body position in a neutral manner, you reduce stress and strain on your muscular and skeletal system.

Below are some tips recommended by OSHA proper ergonomics when working at a computer station.

  • Hands, wrists and forearms are straight, in-line and roughly parallel to the floor.
  • Head is level or bent slightly forward, forward facing and balanced. Generally it is in-line with the torso.
  • Shoulders are relaxed and upper arms hang at an angle between 90-120 degrees.
  • Feet are fully supported by the floor. A footrest may be used if the desk height is not adjustable.
  • Back is fully supported with appropriate lumbar support when sitting vertical or leaning slightly back.
  • Thighs and hips are supported by a well-padded seat and generally parallel to the floor.
  • Knees are about the same height as the hips with the feet slightly forward.

Simple stretching throughout the work day can also help to alleviate tight muscles when standing or sitting for longer periods on time. A few common stretches recommended through the Mayo Clinic to help reduce neck pain and lower back pain are as follows:

  • Neck: To stretch the side of your neck, face straight ahead. Tilt your head so that you’re moving your ear toward your shoulder. Don’t bring your shoulder up to your ear. Hold the stretch for 15-30 seconds. You’ll feel tension in the side of your neck. Relax and slowly return to the starting position. Tilt your head to the other side and repeat the stretch.
  • Lower back: Sit forward in your chair. Bring one of your knees toward your chest. Use your hands to grab the back of your thigh and gently pull it towards you. Keep your back straight, being careful not to lean forward. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds. You’ll feel tension in your lower back and the upper part of your buttock. Relax and slowly return to the starting position. Repeat the stretch with the other leg.
  • Wrist extend: UCLA Ergonomics recommends holding arms straight at waist height with palms facing away from you and fingers pointing up. Hold onto palms of hand and stretch wrist back. Do not pull on your fingers. Make sure your fingers and thumb are kept together. Hold five to 10 seconds and repeat two to three times.

Before adding any type of physical activity into your day, check with your healthcare professional to prevent injuries. The idea is to better your health, not become injured and unable to continue to possess this important gift of creative movement. For more information on healthy behaviors and lifestyles, visit www.msue.msu.edu.

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