Stiff neck, sore lower back? Working from home may have seen you spending longer sat with your laptop, and less time getting up and off your feet to exercise or maintain your usual workout routine. The working world has changed and our typical work routines have taken an overhaul, meaning we are exercising far less than we did before and our bodies are feeling the impact!
“As we work, we sit more than we do anything else. We’re averaging 9.3 hours a day, compared to 7.7 hours of sleeping. Sitting is so prevalent and so pervasive that we don’t even question how much we’re doing it. And, everyone else is doing it also, so it doesn’t even occur to us that it’s not okay. In that way, I’ve come to see that sitting is the smoking of our generation.”
Keeping physically fit and active is still super important. Not just for your body, but for your brain! Good physical fitness can reduce stress, increase productivity and inject energy. Working from home may has put a hault to your usual routine without having the adequate space (or calming environment) to stay active, but don't panic!
We've got you covered with our top 13 desk exercises to help you keep your blood pumping, and your mind alert.
Take a deep breath, sit up tall and get ready to discover the very best desk stretches when working from home.
Let's begin from the top.
Exercises you can do at your desk
1. Workout for your eyes
Screen fatigue is real.
Sit up straight at your desk and, while keeping your head still, look to your right. Then slowly roll your eyes up to the ceiling and down to your left. Finish by rolling your eyes down to the floor.
Do this in a clockwise motion for 10 repetitions, and then anti-clockwise for 10.
Felt good? Now, try this...
Start by blinking quickly 20 times, and then close your eyes for three deep breaths.
Do this every 20 minutes (or as often as you remember) for less tired eyes at work.
2. Neck rolls
Sit up straight in your chair and lean your head forward.
Rotate it around clockwise (or draw circles with your nose, for 10 to 15 seconds, then switch to rotating counterclockwise.
You can also slightly lean your head to the left, place your right hand against the right side of your head, and press against your hand with your head to work the muscles in your neck.
Repeat for the other side.
This is a favourite stretch of mine, and your guaranteed an immediate feel-good release of any tension buried in your neck.
You can thank me later! :)
Typing on a keyboard all day at your computer is not the kindest on your wrists. It typically puts them in unnatural positions for hours at a time, causing stress and pain in your joints and tendons, eventually leading to the very painful and uncomfortable carpal tunnel syndrome.
To help prevent this, you can do some simple wrist stretches once or twice per hour.
Let's give it a try...
Rotate your wrists in circular motions for 10 to 20 seconds, switching between clockwise and counterclockwise rotations.
Extend your arm outwards from your side and flex your hand up (palm facing away from your body). With your other hand, pull back on your fingertips and hold for 10 to 30 seconds.
After releasing, bend your hand downward (palm facing towards your body) and pull it towards your body once more with the opposite hand.
Swap hands and repeat two to three times.
4. Forearm Stretch
You may not even realize how tight your forearms can get from typing until you stretch them out. This simple move helps stretch those muscles in the forearms and wrists.
Seated or standing, stretch the right arm out and turn the hand down so that the fingers point towards the floor. Use the left hand to gently pull the fingers towards you, feeling a stretch in the forearm.
Hold for 10 to 30 seconds and repeat on the other hand.
5. Treat those tense shoulders
Your upper body can often get tight and tense from poor posture.
Let's fix that.
Push your shoulders back so that your shoulder blades “pinch” towards each other.
Hold this for 10-15 seconds, and then slowly release. Imagine trying to keep a hold of something in-between your shoulder blades without allowing it to drop.
Keep this up with around a dozen repetitions, before giving it a rest.
Want to take it a step further?
Interlace your hands behind your back and again feel the pinching sensation between your shoulder blades. With practice, work up to keeping the heels of your hands together to encourage opening across the chest also. Enjoy!
6. Spinal twist
Lower back causing you trouble? Try this out...
Sitting up tall in your chair take your left hand across to your right knee and slowly twist round, for an added bonus stretch your eye gate as far as you can by looking over to the right. After a few breaths on this side, switch to the other by taking your right hand and resting it to your left knee and once again slowly twist round.
Want to take it further?
Give your back some relief by sitting in your chair sideways, gripping the top of the chair with both hands and pulling your body towards the back of the chair.
Do this two to three times and hold for 10 seconds, then switch to the other side.
7. Seated child’s pose
A wonderful desk modification of a yoga stretch. Begin seated with your hands on the edge of your desk or a table. Remaining seated with back straight, lean forwards and extend your arms until they are parallel to the ground and your head falls flat between the shoulders (or rests on the table).
Hold for a few breaths and release.
Feel better? Of course you do!
8. Leg lifts
A quick and easy exercise you can do while you write or work is a simple leg extension. All you need to do is sit up tall with your feet hip width apart. Begin by pointing your toes and lifting your legs off the floor, straighten them both, and hold still for 10 seconds. Then, slowly return your feet to the floor, and repeat around a dozen times.
This will give you a real good release for your hamstrings and calves also. You will also benefit from increased strength in your legs, which is important if you spend a lot of time sitting down.
9. Hip Flexor Stretch
The lower body also gets tight from sitting too much in a chair, especially the front of the hips. When you sit, the glutes stretch while the hip flexors are shortened, which creates tightness. Stretching this area several times a day can help reduce that tightness.
Plus, it gets you up and out of the chair, which offers some immediate relief.
While standing, take the right leg back a few feet.
Bend the back knee, almost like you're doing a lunge, and slowly lower both knees until you feel a stretch in the front of the right hip.
Squeeze the glutes of the back leg to deepen the stretch.
Hold for 10 to 30 seconds and repeat on the other side.
10. Seated Figure 4 Stretch
Seated in a chair, cross one leg on top of the other so that your ankle is sitting over the opposite knee.
Place one hand on the knee of the crossed leg.
Gently lean your trunk forward while pressing gently on the crossed knee until you feel a mild to moderate stretch in the hip and buttock area.
Hold the stretch for 15-20 seconds, then repeat 3-5 times on each side.
11. Run on the spot
Get your heart pumping blood around your body and fuelled with feel-good endorphin with some cardio! A great way to stay alert and energised.
Stand up and jog on the spot for 60 seconds without stopping. Even better, grab a colleague or the whole team and do it together! Try to lift your knees as high as possible, to get the full effect!
Ideally, you want to take a break from sitting at your desk every 45 minutes or so, but even if you don’t feel able to leave your desk, a vigorous 60-second on-the-spot jog may well be just enough to help you power through your next session.
You know what they say: A few desk stretches a day keeps the doctor away.
Just because you work from home doesn’t mean you have to stay in the home. But sometimes, finding time to actually leave the house for exercise can be a challenge.
Check out our top tips for getting a bit more outdoor exercise during your daily work from home routine.
Stand up to take calls
Whenever your phone rings, make a habit of standing up before you answer it. At the very least, this will help you to break the sit-down cycle more often. After all, even an action as simple as standing up and sitting down has some positive impact on your body.
But you might just find that when you stand up to take a call, you don’t sit down until the call has ended. And you might even find yourself pacing around the room, the house, or even the neighbourhood, while you have your conversation.
12. Jog, skip, hop to the shops instead of walking
Whenever you might normally walk to the nearest shop for something, make a point of jogging instead of walking. This simple change in habit will help your body get more active, and deliver better blood flow around your body.
13. Meetings on foot
Walking meetings are already a thing for people who work in the same office. But there’s no reason why you can’t adopt this practice even if you’re a remote worker – and you can encourage your colleagues to join you.
Whenever you are due to take a call that does not require you to look at a screen, make a point of setting off walking while you talk. Keep walking the whole time, taking care of course when crossing roads!
There are a number of benefits to walking meetings, beyond just improving your physical health. A study by Oppezzo and Schwartz from Stanford University looks deeper into the benefits of walking on creativity, concluding that 81% of people demonstrated more divergent thinking after walking.
So if you are trying to solve a problem with colleagues, make sure you walk and talk!
How do you stay active whilst working from home?
Whether you spend most of your time in sitting or standing, you might experience episodes of back pain while working. Changing positions, taking breaks, and walking are great ways to relieve strain, but performing the stretches explained in this article will improve your flexibility and reduce your risk for back pain. If you’re a remote worker, we’d love to hear how you get on or what methods have worked best for you, to keep you fit and healthy during the day. Enjoy!