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5 Simple Stretches to Do at Work

By Staci Amend
February 1, 2014

Stretching can help improve your flexibility, expand your range of motion, and could reduce your risk of injury if done before exercising. Combined with deep breathing, stretching can be extremely effective in combating stress, especially if you sit at a desk (or in a car) for many hours a day. Here are five beginner-level, do-anywhere moves to make the day fly by.

1. Wall Shoulder Stretch
If you sit in front of a computer all day, you may notice a gradual buildup of tension in your shoulders and upper back. To release the front of the shoulder, stand with your right side facing a wall, about six inches from the wall. With your palm flat against the wall and thumb facing up, reach your arm behind you, keeping it parallel to the ground. Stand still, without pushing, for 15–30 seconds to let the muscles release. Repeat on the other side.

2. Seated Shoulder Stretch
To release the back of the shoulder, sit facing your desk with your shoulders squared. Cross your right arm over your chest, hooking your left arm underneath so that your right arm rests in the crook of your left elbow. Gently pull in with your left arm, taking care not to twist the torso. Hold for 15–30 seconds, breathing deeply the whole time, then repeat on the other side.

3. Seated Side Stretch
This one’s such a natural stretch, you’re probably already doing it several times a day. Sitting in your chair with your feet flat on the ground and your shoulders squared, raise both arms above your head. Interlace your fingers and push your palms toward the sky. Reach from your tailbone up to your hands, taking care to tuck in the low ribs to prevent over-stretching the low back. Keep the sit bones grounded and tip gently to the right. Hold for 15–30 seconds, then repeat on the left side.

4. Push Wall
This supported pose gives you the back-stretching benefits of downward dog, without putting unnecessary strain on the shoulders or hamstrings. It’s also a little easier to do in your office clothes—no mat required. Start by standing an arm’s length from the wall. Place your palms flat on the wall, fingers facing up; your hands should be at the height of your hips. Step your legs back until your arms and legs are straight, and gently push the wall away to lengthen the muscles along the spine. Hold for up to a minute.

5. Chair Twist
Sit toward the front of your chair, then turn your thighs so you are sitting diagonally on the seat. Inhale and lift your right arm up to the ceiling. As you exhale, move your arm to the back of the chair on the opposite side, taking hold of the chair back. Bring your left hand to your right knee. Inhale to lengthen your spine, then exhale and twist to the right. Press your right hand against the back of the chair to deepen the twist. Focus on relaxing the muscles in your back as you gently twist a little farther. Stay in the pose for five breaths. Return to center and repeat on the opposite side.

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