How to break up your workday with desk stretches

How to break up your workday with desk stretches - Woman stretching in a desk

Find yourself getting stuck for hours at your desk? Do you have a make-shift at-home desk that may not be ergonomic?  Break up the long days with a stretch break!

Here are a few simple moves you can do from a seated position to help stretch and potentially relieve headaches, back aches, neck pain and minor discomforts, and even get in a little exercise.

For all positions, start in a neutral upright position. Sit in a position on your chair that allows your feet to be flat on the floor and knees directly over ankles. Sit up tall with shoulders stacked over hips and lift the head off the neck and shoulders by looking straight ahead.

  • man stretching backwards in chairChest Openers

    Gently raise arms and place fingertips lightly behind the ears and draw elbows straight back, toward the back of the chair.  Hold for 10 to 15 seconds to start, and work your way up to 30 second holds.  Feel free to repeat this action three to five times per session.

  • Arm stretch over head while seated - side viewArm stretch over head while seatedTriceps Stretch

    Slowly raise one arm to bring the bicep next to the ear on the same side, then flex (bend) the elbow to have the palm come down toward the top of the shoulder.  With your opposite hand, support either the base of the shoulder or below the elbow that is in the air overhead.  Allow for a gentle pull to emphasize the triceps stretch. Hold for 10 to 15 seconds to start, and work your way up to 30 second holds.  Feel free to repeat this action three to five times per session.

  • Forearm Stretch

    Forearm Stretch - RightForearm Stretch - LeftExtend one arm forward straight out from the shoulder. Feel free to drop the wrist height slightly below the shoulder.  With the opposite hand gently fold your wrist down with palm facing out and away. You can do this at varying wrist positions as palm facing away from you both fingertips point up and down, or palm facing you with both fingertips pointed up and down.  Apply gentle pressure to the folded hand to assist in the forearm stretch.  Forearm Stretch - RightForearm Stretch - LeftHold for 10 to 15 seconds to start, and work your way up to 30 second holds.  Feel free to repeat this action three to five times per session.

  • Chair Twists

    Chair Twists RightChair Twists LeftUsing the arm rest or the back rest of the chair, place hands face down on the rest and twist toward your hands.  Hold for 10 to 15 seconds to start, and work your way up to 30 second holds.  Feel free to repeat this action three to five times per session. Stretching should never be painful, or to the feeling that muscles are about to tear or ripe.

  • Single Leg ExtensionSingle Leg Extension - ExtendedSingle Leg Extension - Unextended

    Take one leg at a time and extend from the knee, raising your foot off the ground.  Raise your lower leg up to about knee/hip height, pause, and return to sitting position.  Repeat up to eight to ten times and consider one to three reps per session.

Remember, stretching should never be painful, or feel like muscles are about to tear or ripe.  Stretch to slight discomfort, and at any point release the stretch or adjust accordingly.

Feel free to mix these up and change the time, sets and reps as necessary as you progress, making sure you are pain-free for all sets and reps.  Start with these seated movements and we’ll share more ideas in the coming months on how to work more on strength, or even get a quick exercise break, while at your desk.

Kimberly Burke is the director of the Adult Fitness Program at Colorado State University, an outreach program through the Department of Health and Exercise Science. Adult Fitness offers exercise opportunities for employees of CSU as well as community members, while providing hands-on learning experiences for health promotion students. To learn more see http://hes.chhs.colostate.edu/outreach/adultfitness/