Stretch while at work

Stretch while at work
Whether you like it or not, daily work is sedentary for most people and there’s no escaping it.

A bulk of urban professionals today spends a major part of their days straddled on desks in front of computers. Not only is this lifestyle leading to increased incidence of obesity and lifestyle diseases due to physical inactivity, this also sends a large number of men and women to orthopaedic specialists with issues like backache, neck pain, frozen shoulder, among others.

Staying in a sedentary position for long hours can expose the body to a lot of problems including pain and repetitive stress injuries in muscles and tissues. The symptoms range from stiffness in the neck to numbness in fingers to acute back pain.

While it might be difficult for you to leave your desk every hour and go out for a walk, you can take some small steps to ensure that your body copes well with this kind of pressure. Diligent effort on your end can prevent a lot of such problems even if you are slouched on your desk for hours at a stretch.

For starters, try to ditch the elevator and take the stairs. And do a few of the following exercises to help your body deal with the strain.

Neck Exercises

n Keep your hand on the back of your head and push your head back while pushing forward with your hand. Stay in the position for 10 seconds and repeat
five to 10 times.

n After sitting for too long at the desk, take time to move your head to the left, right, up and down and then tilt it on both sides. Repeat a few times.

n With one shoulder down, stretch your head and neck sideways in the opposite direction. Hold for 10 seconds and repeat five to six times.

n At the end of your day at work, pull your chin inwards as if trying to make a double chin while looking forward.

Shoulder exercises

n Try to bring your shoulder blades closer in your back. (shoulder squeeze).

n Stretch your arm upwards and hold the stance for a few seconds.

n Gently lift your arm in forward, backward, right and left directions.

n Do a shoulder roll up and down several times and relax the muscles.

n Do gentle shoulder stretches by holding your left elbow with your right hand and visa versa. Put your elbow behind your head and pull to feel a stretch on your shoulder. Hold for 10 seconds and repeat five to six times.

Posture alignment

n Adjust your chair and keep it at a height where you can sit straight in the most comfortable position and adjust your computer screen to your eye level.

n Balance your head without leaning forward.

n The depth of your chair should be such that there should be a little space (the size of your fist) between the edge of the chair and the back of your knees.

n Get support if required but the back of your chair shoulder necessarily help you sit upright. If there is a gap, use a pillow.

n Your elbows should be supported on chair armrest.

n Pull or push the keyboard tray to keep the keyboard close to you. Avoid sitting on low chairs.

n If your chair is too high, use a foot rest or stool for your feet. Chairs that are 16-21 inches high are consider ideal for most people

Back, leg, arm and wrist exercises

n While sitting on your chair, lean forward, keeping your head down and neck relaxed to feel stretch on your back.

Hold for 10 seconds and repeat five times.

n Stretch your upper body and interlock the fingers of your hands at the back. Straighten arms above head, push upwards and repeat five to six times.

n Keep left leg over right leg, look over the left shoulder to feel stretch in back and hip area.

n Sit still and move your feet up and down.

n Clench your fist and then spread your fingers out as far as possible five to six times in a row.

n In isolation, try hard punches and kicks in the air to really stretch your leg and arm muscles during breaks.

n Place hands palm to palm, do a namaste and reverse namaste to feel a gentle stretch on your forearms while keeping your elbow straight.

Mitigating back pain

n Use the swivelling chair action to allow movement of your lower abdomen by moving from one side to another.

n Take regular breaks and walk across the office to take the pressure off your neck.

(The author is Chief of Rehabilitation Services & Principal, ISIC Institute of
Rehabilitation Sciences, Indian Spinal
Injuries Centre, New Delhi)
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