Office work may appear to only strain the mind but it has far-reaching effects on the body as well. From your back, neck, wrists and even the eyes, office work takes a slow toll on the body overtime.
The good news is that you can undo the effects of those long hours at the office with a few simple yet highly effective exercises and stretches. These include targeted stretches and exercises you can do while in the office or at home.
Best Office Work Exercises and Stretches
To stay healthy at the office (and be more productive), carry out the exercises and stretches detailed below. Be careful that you don’t hurt yourself while you’re at it. Hold each stretch for 15 seconds and each exercise for about the same time for the best results.
1. Neck Rolls
The neck does a lot for your office work as it keeps the head in position for you to see your monitor and other pieces of equipment around you. With time, it builds up tension and may become stiff if not exercised. One such exercise is a neck roll as follows:
- While seated upright, lean your head forwards then roll it in a circle to the left. Do this 5 times then roll it to the right 5 times as well.
Make the motions slow and steady to avoid injuring yourself.
2. Chest Stretch
The chest area is among the most used parts of the body for a computer worker as you spend your day focused on the computer and hunched forward at different angles. Chest stretches will help you undo the fatigue and potential injury caused by the hunching position.
Some of the best chest stretches include the following:
- Lace your fingers together in front of you then lift them above your head and backwards as far as you can.
- If you have a resistance band, hold its ends in either hand then, pulling them apart, lift them overhead and as far backwards as you can.
- Take your arms straight out to the side and as far backwards as you can.
- Stand in the doorway with your feet shoulder width apart. Hold unto the doorframes then gently lean forwards until you feel some tightness in your chest.
These are simple stretches you can do at the office without raising eyebrows. You can even do most of them while still seated.
3. Triceps Stretch
Triceps stretches help in stretching the whole arm from the shoulder blade, the triceps all the way to the wrist. They can be done as follows:
- While seated, stretch out your arm directly upwards then bend it at the elbow with the forearm going behind the head.
- Strech the arm as much to the opposite side as possible. If you can touch the shoulder blade of the other arm, the better. Hold it in place after reaching the other end for 30 seconds then repeat with the other arm.
Don’t force your hand to stretch too much as you might injure yourself.
4. Upper Back Stretches
Another part of the body that suffers from long sitting hours at your desk is the upper back. With a stretch, you can easily rejuvenate it. You can do it in the following steps whether you’re sitting or standing:
- Stretch your arms forwards while keeping them at the shoulder level.
- Turn the palms to face away from each other.
- Cross the arms to face the palms towards each other.
- Lace the singers together then reach as far ahead as you can without bending your back.
You should form a curve over an imaginary ball while feeling a stretch in your upper back.
5. Lower-Abs Leg Lifts
One of the reasons for a potty is a sedentary lifestyle. Even when you’re not a gym freak, you can get your abs in shape with some ab exercises such as the lower-abs leg lifts while seated. This exercise is done as follows:
- Sit upright in your chair with your feet shoulder width apart and the knees at right angles.
- Lift up one leg to the level of your elbows then return it to the starting position. Do the same for the other foot making the motions alternating to one another. Keep the upper body straight at all times.
- Try lifting both feet at the same time for a harder workout.
This workout stretches and strengthens the lower abs. For either routine, perform 20 reps.
6. Torso Stretch
The torso is made up of your whole body without the arms and legs. This includes the back, sides and other parts which play a part in supporting the body. You can do the torso stretch while seated or standing as follows:
- With your palms facing each other, lace the fingers together in front of you.
- Stretch the laced palms upwards and backwards as much as you can.
You can also stretch the sides of the torso by twisting the upper body to either side as you stretch your arms upwards.
7. Seated Bicycle Crunches
Who says you can’t work your core while at work? With seated bicycle crunches, you can easily do that right from your office chair as follows:
- Sit on the edge of your chair then place your hands at the back of your head with the fingers interlaced.
- Lift the right knee while lowering the left elbow until they touch in front of you.
- Repeat the same with the left knee and right elbow. Do this 15 times on each side.
Crunches strengthen the core while stretching the torso for a wholesome midsection workout.
8. Neck Stretch
Often, office workers hunch forward with the neck supporting the head which would be heavier as it’ll be stretched outwards. With longer periods of time at the desk, tension in your neck can lead to headaches and neck pains.
You can prevent this with the following neck stretching steps:
- While seated, hold the side (or arm) of the chair on the right side.
- Move the head as far to the left as possible without moving the torso.
- Hold for 15 seconds then do the same with the left hand on the chair and neck moving to the right.
Always keep the neck upright (within the torso outline) as you perform these exercises.
Lunges help in exercising the thighs, knees, and feet in simple repeated motions as follows:
- Stand with hands akimbo (hands on your waist).
- Step as much forward as possible with one foot while keeping the upper body upright.
- With one foot ahead of the other, lower the midsection as if kneeling with the foot behind. Do not let the knee touch the ground.
- As the knee approaches the floor, stand up then repeat the exercise with the other foot.
Repeat the routine 10 times for each foot.
10. Wall Sits
Wall sits work your thighs to make them steadier especially after long periods of resting on your feet and not using them. They’re done as follows:
- Lean on a wall with your back.
- Slide down the wall until your thighs are parallel to the floor then hold the position for 30 seconds before standing up again.
Make sure your wall doesn’t have dust or water paint that can soil your shirt or jacket.
11. Shoulder Shrugs
After long periods of time hunching over the desk, your shoulders and neck will build up tension to the extent that blood flow may be limited in the shoulder region. With desk tasks such as clicking, typing and more, you’ll feel this tension after a while.
You can do the shoulder shrugs as follows either in a sitting or standing position:
- Raise the shoulders (at the same time) towards your head. The motion should be inwards and upwards.
- Hold for about 2 seconds then roll them backwards and downwards until they reach the lowest point.
- Start squeezing the shoulders together while moving them upwards and forwards. Go all the way up to the top then hold them tight for about 2 seconds before releasing. Repeat up to 15 times for the best results.
This stretch will provide relief and dissipate tension from your shoulders.
12. Calf Raises
Calf raises work your calves (the fleshy part at the back of the lower leg) as they aren’t used much during office work. They’re done as follows:
- Stand with your feet about a foot apart.
- Hold unto the back of a chair, a wall or other support with your hands.
- Raise your heels upwards and off the ground until you’re standing on your toes. Drop back to the standing position.
- Repeat 30 times.
While used sparingly, the calves help the body during various motions and this routine helps them stay active besides giving you nicely toned legs.
13. Spinal/Oblique Twists
The spine, being the main part of the body offering support, easily gets tight and worn out when kept in one position for long. A little measured twist will do wonders for the spine and the whole back as follows:
- While seated and with your feet resting on the ground and knees at 90 degrees, contract the abs as you rotate towards your left. Hold the position when you reach the furthest you can with the stretch. You can use the arms of the chairs to make the twist easier.
- Twist to the right using the same steps and body position.
Avoid jerking motions with this stretch and instead focus on steady and slow motions to avoid injury to the back.
14. Jump Ropes
For this exercise, you’ll not be using an actual jump rope as you risk breaking things in the office. Rather, you’ll imagine having one then jumping over it as follows:
- Put your hands to your side as if holding a jump rope.
- Jump up and down as if jumping over an actual rope. Move the hands in a circle either forwards or backwards as you jump.
This exercise will help invigorate the body without making you sweat in your office cloths.
Various types of planks will help strengthen your midsection to the extent that you can support the rest of the body and provide good posture to the back. Besides that, it helps tone your midsection making you more attractive.
The most basic of planks is done as follows:
- Start by lying on the floor in a face-down position.
- Support your body with the elbows and the toes making sure the elbows are directly below the shoulders.
- Engage the core while keeping a straight backline.
- Hold for 30 seconds then increase the hold times as you get fitter.
Avoid arching your back downwards as you’ll hurt it.
16. Forearm Stretch
Typing at your desk will fatigue and tighten up the forearms. With the forearm stretch, you can easily restore flexibility in them while seated or standing as follows:
- Stretch both arms out either forward or downwards with the palms facing down.
- Turn the fingers to point downwards then slowly pull your fingers towards you. Ensure that the motion includes the whole palm.
You should feel your forearm stretching. Hold the position for up to 30 seconds then release.
17. Lateral Prayer Stretch
The lateral prayer stretch targets the mid and lower sections of the back but on the sides. It’s done as follows:
- Kneel with your feet flat on the ground and hands before your knees and directly below the shoulders.
- Move your hands slightly to one side then move your buttocks downwards and backwards until your buttocks touch the heels of your feet.
- Hold this position for up to 20 seconds then repeat for 3 to 5 times before changing to the other side of the body.
This stretch should do away with tension in the lower trunk on the sides.
18. Standing Rear Pulses
Standing rear pulses, done with the feet, are meant to put the weight of the body on one foot while stretching the muscles on the other. They’re done as follows:
- Place your hands on a support such as a table or wall.
- Standing on one foot, bend the other one at the knee for form a right angle (90 degrees) at the knee.
- Slightly raise the heel of the raised foot while pushing the foot backwards then let it drop. Don’t move the raised foot’s knee beyond the knee of the other foot.
You should do this for 30 reps on one foot before switching to the other one.
19. Prayer Stretch
The prayer stretch focuses on the mid and lower back which suffer the most from sitting for too long. It’s done as follows:
- Kneel with your feet flat on the ground and hands in front of the knees.
- Move your buttocks backwards and downwards until they touch the heels of the flattened feet. Your head should be between your hands at the end of the stretch.
- Hold the position for between 15 to 20 seconds before returning to the starting position. Repeat for up to 5 times.
You should feel a stretch at the full extent of the routine in the mid and lower back.
20. Hip Flexor Stretch
The hip flexors are the parts of the hips at the front (between your lower stomach and front thighs). When you sit, you shorten them and make them tight. With time, they grow slightly shorter and limit your motion besides becoming painful.
You can stretch them in the following steps:
- In a standing position, step backwards with one foot as far as possible.
- Bend the back knee as if you are doing a lunge until you feel the front of the thigh stretching.
- Hold for up to 30 seconds then switch the position of the feet.
If you know how to do a back lunge, that’s the same motion but with a longer period of time in the lunge position.
21. Lower Trunk Rotation Stretch
This stretch helps reduce the built-up tension in the lower torso around the hips and lower back. It’s one of the stretches done on the ground as follows:
- Lying on your back, put your hands besides your body on the ground then put your feet together.
- Pull your feet towards your buttocks to create just enough bend in the knees for your comfort. Keep them on the ground.
- While holding the knees together, slowly bend them to one side as far as you can. Make sure the rest of the body doesn’t move with the knees. At the extreme of the stretch, hold for 15 to 20 seconds then bend the knees to the other side of the body.
- Do these stretches 3 to 5 times on either side of the body.
This will help relax the lower trunk.
22. Chair Squats
Squats work the glutes and help keep them active after long hours in a sitting position. Rather than the normal squats that take you all the way close to the floor, chair squats only require you to drop to the level of your chair yet are still effective. They’re done as follows:
- Stand in front of your chair with your feet shoulder width apart.
- Hold your hands in front of your chest then slowly drop down as if going to sit.
- Just as your bottom touches the edge of the chair, push yourself upwards to count a single rep. Repeat this routine 10 to 20 times.
Done enough time, squats will strengthen and scalp your feet from the thighs all the way to the Achilles.
23. Supine Piriformis Stretch
This stretch requires that you use the floor. If not possible at the office, you can do it at home after work. It helps stretch the hips, lower back and buttock region. It’s performed as follows:
- While lying on your back, stretch out both feet with the toes pointing upwards.
- Bring up one foot and grab the knee either with one or both hands. Bring the knee all the way up without lifting the other leg up.
- When the knee is at its highest, pull it across the body towards the opposite leg as far as you can. Hold for 20 seconds.
- Repeat this on one leg up to 5 times then switch to the other leg.
In about 2 to 3 minutes, you’ll be done with this stretch to great effect.
24. Inner Thigh Stretches
The inner thigh stretches are meant to stretch the inner thighs to dissipate any tension that might have built up due to sitting in a single position for too long. It’s done as follows:
- While sitting, put your legs out wide with the toes also pointing outwards.
- Put your elbows on the thighs close to the knees.
- Slowly, lean forwards as you press against the knees pushing them further outward. Only stop when you’ve pushed out as far as you can. Hold for up to 30 seconds then release.
This will ease the tension in the inner thighs.
25. Seated Figure 4 Stretch
This stretch targets the hip and buttock region and can be difficult at the beginning for some. With careful persistence, you can eventually do it without an issue. It’s done as follows:
- Seat in a chair with the back upright and feet shoulder width apart.
- Cross one leg over the other such that the ankle is on top of the knee of the other foot.
- Place a hand on the knee of the leg crossed over the other.
- Lean forward slowly as you press on the knee of the crossed foot. This will stretch the lower hip and buttock region.
- When you reach the maximum stretch you can, hold for up to 20 seconds. Repeat for up to 5 times on one leg then switch to the other one.
Be careful not to press your knee too much or too sudden as you might injure your glutes in the process.
Various types of pushups will work various parts of the upper body. They include desk pushups, wall pushups, standard (floor) pushups, and many others. Depending on the surface and amount of space available, you can do the following for a quick pushup:
- Place your arms about elbow width apart on the surface of your choice. Place your feet together or about a half-foot apart.
- Let your body fall towards the surface until the upper arms are parallel to the surface then push yourself backwards until the arms are fully stretched. Repeat this 20 times.
Pushups will help exercise the upper body including the biceps, chest region and the core.
27. Seated Lateral Trunk Stretch
This stretch helps the trunk and especially the sides of the midsection to stretch and eliminate the built-up tension. It’s done as follows:
- Sit upright with your feet shoulder width apart.
- With one hand resting on your thigh, raise the other arm over your head.
- Slowly and steadily bend to the other side (away from the raised arm) until you feel a stretch on the side of the raised arm.
- Hold for 15 to 20 seconds then release and do it again on the same side.
- After 3 to 5 times, switch to the other side.
This helps stretch the whole area from below your shoulder to the hips on both sides of the body.
28. Buddha/Prayer Stretch
The Buddha stretch is named after the motion you make with your palms as if praying. It helps stretch the wrists relieving the tension in the process. It’s done as follows:
- Face your palms towards each other then bring them together in front of your chest like a prayer. The fingers should point upwards.
- Lower the touching palms directly downwards until you feel a stretch in your wrists. Hold for 30 seconds then release.
You can do this little stretch every hour or so to keep the wrists fresh.
29. Standing Trunk Extension Stretch
A simple exercise to stretch the back, the standing trunk extension stretch can be done each time you stand up. It’s done in the following steps:
- Stand up straight with your feet shoulder width apart.
- Place your palms on the lower section of your back.
- Lean back slowly and steadily until you feel some tension in the abdomen and the back.
- Hold this position for up to 20 seconds for the best results. Repeat 3 to 5 times each time you do it.
It’s a simple yet highly effective stretch that you might be already doing.
30. Arm Circles
Arm circles help work the shoulders which can get tight and sore from hunching at your desk. It’s done as follows:
- Stand upright with your feet shoulder width apart.
- Spread out your arms to the sides with the palms facing downwards.
- Without moving the shoulders in any direction, move the palms in backwards circles. Do this 20 times.
These will help stretch and work the shoulders for easy deskwork.
31. Eagle Arms (Shoulders and Upper Back Stretches)
This stretch will help do away with the tension built up in the upper back and the shoulders. It’s done as follows:
- Start by sitting on your chair, feet shoulder width apart and back upright.
- Reach out with your arms directly in front of you with the palms facing each other.
- Bend your left arm upwards then sweep the right arm under it.
- Wrap the right arm around the left one till you can grab the outside edge of the left arm. If you’re able to clasp your arms together, the better.
- Lift your elbows upwards while pulling your hands away from you.
- Turn the head from one side to the other.
- Hold for about 3 deep breaths then repeat with the other side.
It’s a bit complex but very effective in reducing the tension in the shoulders and hands.
32. Chin Tuck (Neck Retraction)
The chin tuck is a simple exercise that would make your head move in motions similar to a chicken pecking at a wall. It helps relax and rejuvenate the neck muscles after long hours of holding the head in a fixed position.
It’s done as follows:
- While seated or standing upright, push your neck as far forward as possible without bending it downwards or upwards. Hold for 30 seconds.
- Push the neck backwards without tilting the head and hold for another 30 seconds.
This motions help relax the neck muscles making them ready to go again.
33. Fingers and Wrists Stretch
Typing and other repeated office tasks will fatigue your fingers and wrists to the extent that you may be slowed down and even feel some pain in the forearms. You can undo that with the following exercise steps:
- While standing, place your hands on the edge of the desk with the palms facing downwards and fingertips towards you.
- Lean on the desk slightly to stretch the fingers and palms, hold for 30 seconds then release.
This should dissipate the tension built up in the wrists and fingers.
34. Arm Pulses
Arm pulses are meant to stretch the triceps which are the muscles on the back of the upper arm. They’re done as follows:
- Stand upright with your arms at your sides, palms facing backwards.
- Pule the arms from your sides backwards in quick motions. Repeat up to 20 times.
This will help relax the upper arms in general.
35. Bent-Knee Stretch
The bent-knee stretch helps stretch the knees, thighs, core and hands. It’s done as follows:
- While seated with your feet shoulder width apart and knees at right angles, interlace your fingers and place them over one knee.
- Pull on that knee as close to your chest as possible. Hold the knee in place for 10 seconds, return it to the original position then pull on it again. Each time you pull on the knee, hold it then breathe deeply 2 to 3 times before releasing it.
- Switch to the other foot after the 3 breaths.
When pulling on each knee, keep the other knee in its original position and keep the back upright.
36. Eye Exercises
Eyes are some of the most ignored parts of the body at the office. Staring at your monitor for hours on end or at a poorly positioned screen can lead to eyestrain. If not corrected in time, this can lead to permanent loss of vision. You can perform the following exercises to keep your eyes in good condition:
- Every 20 to 30 minutes, move your eyes to an object away from the screen and preferably one that’s at a longer distance than your desk.
- Every 30 minutes, switch your eyes to another object that’s not the screen of your computer.
To further help your eyesight remain in good condition, your monitor ought to be at least 20 inches away and not more than 40 inches away from your eyes. It shouldn’t also be the flickering type. If it’s broken and you can’t set the brightness, contrast and others, you can use specific eyewear (glasses).
37. Hamstring Stretch
The hamstrings are the muscles linking the hip to the knee at the back. While seated, these muscles don’t do as much work. However, they are instrumental in other movements such as walking, running and in sports.
Sitting down usually compresses the hamstrings and may lead to injuries if not rectified. You can do that with a hamstring stretch as follows:
- Sit with your knees and feet shoulder width apart. The knees should be at right angles.
- While keeping one foot in the original position, straighten the other one until only the heel is touching the ground.
- Reach out with the hand of the same side to the straightened foot for the toes. The other hand should rest on the thigh of the other foot.
Hold each stretch for about 30 seconds then go to the other foot. You should feel some tightness at the back of the foot.
38. Triceps Dips
As denoted by their name, triceps dips are meant to work the triceps muscles on the arms. These are the muscles found on the upper arm at the back of the arm. The front part is occupied by the biceps.
Triceps dips help work these muscles which have very little work when typing at your desk. To keep them from going numb, you can do the triceps dips as follows:
- Find a surface about knee-high with enough area to place both hands at least shoulder width apart. You can use the chair but it should be stationary (not wheeled).
- Place your hands on the surface but at the back while facing away from the chair.
- Bending the elbows, lower your body until the thighs are horizontal to the floor then pull yourself up and repeat the motions for up to 20 times.
This is a quick exercise you can do in a short time at the office.
39. Shoulder Stretch
A simple stretch of the shoulders will do you lots of good since office work entails lots of hunched sitting and restricted motions. You can do it as follows:
- Interlace your fingers for both hands then face the palms away from you.
- Push the interlaced hands above your head as far up as possible the hold for 15 seconds.
This will give your shoulders and palms a good stretch.
40. Gym Workouts
If you can get a gym membership to work out on the regular, you should do so as it’ll help a lot in terms of doing away with the harm done to the body by hours at the office.
There are many more exercises you can carry out besides the ones explained here. While they can all help you recover from long hours in a seated or standing position, good posture will help you avoid a lot of the issues that come with office work. This entails having the right office chair adjustments and taking frequent breaks.