Sitting at a desk for several hours a day can take a toll on your body. Many workers develop health problems or syndromes that result from long periods of sitting, muscle inactivity, eye strain, or neck and back stiffness. Taking just a few moments each hour for a quick stretch break can do wonders for your physical health and mental awareness. Short ergonomic exercises for the hands, back, and shoulders can be easily fit into your daily office routine and can be performed at your desk.
Hand Stretch Exercises
For any desk job, a person’s hands typically perform most of the physical work that is done. Healthy hands are essential for typing, writing, and conducting other manual office tasks. Just as a runner may stretch his legs before a jog to prevent injuries, it is important for office workers to stretch their hands periodically to prevent muscles from becoming overly tight or inflamed. Below are some ergonomic stretches designed to keep your hands and fingers limber throughout the workday:
- Stretch your arm out in front of you, palm forward and fingers towards the ceiling. With your other hand, gently pull each finger backward towards your body, one at a time. Then pull all of your fingers back at once until you feel the stretch through your palm and wrist.
- Hold your hand out in front of you, with palm open and fingers and thumb spread. Close your hand to a fist and gently squeeze. Slowly stretch your fingers as much as is comfortable by reopening your hand and splaying your fingers wide.
Ergonomic Back Exercises
The back can be thought of as a person’s pillar of strength. A healthy back allows us to stand for periods of time, lift things, run, sit up straight, and sleep comfortably. It can be easy to get into the habit of hunching over the computer during the day as our backs become fatigued. To promote good posture and a healthy back, try incorporating these back stretches into your workday at least a few times per day.
- Sit up straight in your chair, with your shoulders back but relaxed. Clench your abdominal muscles as you sit up as straight as possible, stretching your spine. Relax and repeat. Strong abdominals help to support your back and prevent you from bending your spine and slouching.
- Lace your fingers together, stretching your arms over your head with palms towards the ceiling. Pull your arms upward as if you are trying to reach the ceiling. Bend slightly to each side during the exercise to extend the stretch to your rib cage and side abdominals.
- Extend your arms out to the side, parallel to the floor. While keeping them parallel, gently pull your arms backward, feeling the stretch through your chest and pectoral muscles. Slowly rotate your back at the hips to add a slight stretch along your spine.
Shoulder Relaxation Stretches
Tense shoulders often lead to slouching. These simple shoulder exercises can be done even while typing and can help to relax your shoulder muscles.
- While taking a deep breath, shrug your shoulders and pull them towards your ears, holding the stretch for a few seconds. Relax and repeat.
- Tilt your head to the side, pushing your right ear towards your right shoulder while keeping your left shoulder relaxed. You should feel the stretch along the left side of your neck and into your left shoulder. Repeat with the left side.
Stretching regularly can help to prevent muscle fatigue and health issues that result from inactivity. When performed a few times each day, these ergonomic exercises can help to improve blood circulation, muscle relaxation, posture, and physical and mental health.
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