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Not all nerds are out-of-shape losers on the brink of a heart attack… But let’s be honest: If you’re reading this, you probably live a life that’s far more sedentary than it should be. Whether you work from home or in an office, you deserve to take better care of your body—and your brain will thank you for it!
A sedentary lifestyle can lead to muscle tension (particularly in the neck, shoulders, back, and hips) and chronic muscle tension can lead to stress-related disorders (including tension headaches, elevated heart rates, and panic attacks).
The good news is, simple stretches can be effective at relieving pent up stress and muscle tension, and many stretches can be done right at your desk. Incorporate these into your daily routine and you’ll reap the benefits!
1. Chin tuck stretch
Put both palms on the back of your head. Sit up straight. Bring your chin to your chest, then gently press down with your hands until you feel a stretch where your neck meets your shoulders. Hold for 30 seconds.
2. Neck rotation stretch
Sit up straight, stick your chest out, pull your shoulders back. Turn your head as if trying to look over one shoulder. Hold for 30 seconds. Repeat with the other shoulder, also holding for 30 seconds.
3. Side bend neck stretch
Sit up straight, then try to touch your right ear to your right shoulder without moving your shoulder. Hold for 30 seconds. Repeat with the left side.
4. Upper trapezius stretch
Sit up straight, pull your shoulders back, grab the underside of your seat with your right hand, and lean to the left until you feel a stretch in your right shoulder. Hold for 30 seconds. Repeat with the left shoulder.
5. Overhead side shoulder stretch
Sit up straight and raise your right arm straight up. With your left hand, grab the middle of your right forearm. Keep your right arm straight as you gently pull it to the left behind your head, and hold for 30 seconds. Then pull your right arm to the right, bringing your left arm behind your head, and hold for 30 seconds. Switch arms and repeat.
6. Eagle arms stretch
Hold your right arm straight out. Hold your left arm straight out on top of your right arm so that they cross at the elbows like an X. Bring your right hand up, then bring your left hand up, and cross wrists so your palms are touching. Push your elbows out and move them up or down until you feel a stretch. Hold for 30 seconds. Switch arms and repeat.
7. Penguin shoulder stretch
Put the top of your right wrist on your right hip and stick your right elbow out to the side, as if imitating a chicken wing. With your left hand, gently tug your right elbow forward until you feel a stretch in your deltoid. Hold for 30 seconds. Repeat with your other shoulder.
8. Hands clasped, above the head stretch
Raise both arms straight overhead, palms facing each other, and interlace your fingers. While keeping your back straight and your arms straight, pull your hands back until you feel a stretch in your shoulders. Hold for 30 seconds.
9. Leaning wall push stretch
While standing directly facing a wall, place your right palm on the wall with elbow bent at a 90-degree angle. Turn your body and feet to the left by 90 degrees, then lean into the wall so that it pushes your right elbow behind your back and you feel a stretch in your shoulder. Hold for 30 seconds. Switch sides and repeat.
10. Hands clasped, behind the back stretch
Put both arms behind you, palms facing each other, and interlace your fingers. While keeping your back straight and your arms straight, lift your hands as high as they’ll go until you feel a stretch in your shoulders. Hold for 30 seconds.
11. Standing desk chest opener
Stand with your back facing your desk. Place your hands on the desk with your fingers pointing away from you. Lean back, pull your shoulders back, and push your chest toward the ceiling, but don’t arch too much. Hold for 30 seconds.
12. Doorway stretch
While standing directly in a doorway, put both arms on either side of the doorway with hands at about eye level, then gently walk forward until you feel a stretch in the chest. Hold for 30 seconds. You can change which parts of the chest are targeted by changing the height of your hands.
Back and Side Stretches
13. Arms up, leaning side stretch
Raise both hands overhead and clasp them together, then lean to one side until you feel a stretch between your ribs and hips. Hold for 30 seconds. Then lean to the other side and repeat.
14. Seated spinal twist
Sit with your legs hanging off the side of a chair, sit up straight, then use the back of the chair to gently twist until you feel a stretch in your lower back. Hold for 30 seconds. Repeat the other way on the other side of the chair.
15. Seated arch stretch
Sit on the edge of your chair, put both hands on the seat behind you, and arch up until you feel a stretch in your lower back. Change the degree of arch to stretch more of your upper back. Hold for 30 seconds.
Hand and Wrist Stretches
16. Inverted prayer stretch
Put your palms together in front of your chest, but with your fingers pointing to the ground. Increase the intensity of the stretch by moving your hands toward your chin. Hold for 30 seconds.
17. Forearm stretch
Hold your right arm straight out ahead, then pull your fingers back with your left hand. Hold for 30 seconds. Switch arms and repeat.
18. Spread finger stretch
Put your palms together in front of your chest, then separate your palms but keep your fingers pressing into each other so there’s a 90-degree angle between fingers and hands. Hold for 30 seconds.
19. Seated knee hug stretch
Sit as far back in your chair as you can, put your right foot on the edge of your seat, then lean forward to touch chest to knee. Increase intensity by hugging your knee with your arms. Hold for 30 seconds. Repeat with your other knee.
20. Seated glute stretch
Sit up in your chair, put your right ankle on your left knee, and lean forward while maintaining a straight back. You won’t be able to lean much at all at first, but as your flexibility improves, you’ll eventually be able to touch your chest to your legs. Hold for 30 seconds. Switch legs and repeat.
21. Seated IT band stretch
Sit up in your chair, cross your legs so that one knee is stacked on top of the other, then lean forward while maintaining a straight back. Hold for 30 seconds. Switch legs and repeat.
22. Low lunge stretch
Kneel with both knees on the ground. Lift your right leg and plant your foot in front of you. Lean into your right leg and you’ll feel a stretch in your left hip and thigh. Hold for 30 seconds. Increase intensity by increasing the distance of your foot. Switch legs and repeat.
23. Forward fold hamstring stretch
Stand with your feet together facing forward. Lean forward, hinging at your hips and maintaining a straight back and straight legs, until you feel a stretch in the back of your knees. Use the back of your chair for balance if needed. Hold for 30 seconds. If needed, you can use a chair or desk to help with balance.
24. Standing thigh stretch
Stand up straight. Lift your right foot behind you and grab it with your right hand. If you feel a stretch in your thigh, great. If not, keep your foot at close to your butt as possible while pushing your knee backwards—you may need to lean forward a little bit to do this. Hold for 30 seconds. Switch legs and repeat.
25. Reverse lunge stretch
Kneel with both knees on the ground. Stick your right leg out in front of you, keep it straight, and only touch the heel to the ground. Bend forward at the hips while keeping your back straight until you feel a stretch behind your right knee and thigh. Hold for 30 seconds. Switch legs and repeat.
There you have it! Pick your favorite ones and do them at least once per day. Stretching does actually help and you’ll feel the stress relief right away, but stick with it long-term to reap the health benefits, both physical and mental. Let me know which stretches are your favorite in the comments below!