Have you been hit by the 2 p.m. slump? Sitting at a desk for an extended period of time not only makes you drowsy, it causes stiffness and muscle tension, which may lead to straining a muscle. But according to researchers, it’s even more hazardous than that.
"Sitting is more dangerous than smoking, kills more people than HIV, and is more treacherous than parachuting. We are sitting ourselves to death," said James Levine, Professor of Medicine at the Mayo Clinic, to the Los Angeles Times. If you’re thinking, “I have no concerns, I work out for an hour every day” – well, Professor Marc Hamilton, Ph.D., stated in an article published in Men’s Health that the human body can’t do enough exercise to negate the damage done by extended periods of sitting.
So how do you counteract the negative effects of your chair? Brace yourself, as the answer is so simple it sounds stupid: make short movements throughout the day. Not only will this temporarily boost your energy, engagement and efficiency, researchers insist it will extend your life.
To keep their blood and energy flowing, employees should spend at least 5 minutes of activity and/or 20 minutes of standing every hour. Ready to give it a try? Here are 11 simple stretches anybody can do from their desk.
1. Focused Breathing: Close your eyes and focus on mindful breathing. Take long, deep breaths for a few minutes.
2. Neck Stretches: Inhale with your head center and upright, then exhale while bending your ear towards your shoulder; inhale with your head center and upright, then exhale while gazing over your shoulder; inhale with your head center and upright, then exhale with your chin towards your chest. Repeat for the other side.
3. Shoulder Rolls/Shrugs: Inhale and shrug your shoulders up towards your ears, then exhale and relax down; inhale and shrug your shoulders up towards your ears, then exhale while rolling your shoulders back.
4. Chest Expansion: Inhale and shrug your shoulders up towards your ears, then exhale while rolling your back and reaching for the backside of your chair. Open your chest and draw the shoulder blades a little closer towards each other in back, taking deep breaths.
5. Side Stretches: Inhale with your arms overhead, then exhale while gently bending to one side, creating a side stretch. Repeat for the other side.
6. Gentle Twists: Inhale with a tall posture, then exhale while gently twisting your torso to the right. Repeat to twist on the left side. Hold for a couple of breaths or longer on each side.
7. Cat/Cow: Inhale with your belly down and chest open while gazing up, then exhale by rounding your back, starting at the tailbone and ending with your chin towards your chest.
8. Torso Circles: With your feet wider than hip distance, inhale with a tall posture and exhale as you bend your torso towards the right knee, then to the center, then to the left knee, and back to a neutral/tall posture. Repeat and reverse direction after a few sets.
9. Sunflowers: Sit or stand with your feet wider than hip distance and inhale with your arms overhead, then exhale while scooping your arms forward towards your knees. (When standing, be sure to bend your knees and point your toes out.)
10. Hip Stretch: Lay flat on your back and bend your right knee, then bring your left ankle to the right thigh and flex your foot. Gently hinge forward from your hips to deepen the stretch. Repeat for the other side.
11. Ankle Circles: Gently roll your ankles going clockwise and counterclockwise.
Making these small efforts will not only give you a boost of energy to provide direct results to the bottom line, studies have also shown that stretching throughout the day reduces stress, fatigue and the risk of injury. Need a reminder to stop and stretch? Set a timer. You can also throw in a team challenge for number of stairs taken or minutes spent walking or stretching to boost participation.
For more ideas on how to get your employees energized and engaged, please contact your certified HR expert. Not a current Stratus.hr client? Please book a consultation and our team will contact you shortly.
Disclaimer: As with any exercise, use caution and work towards a gentle sensation for the noted stretches. Never force your body into a stretch; listen to your body and do what feels best. Talk with your physician before beginning any new form of exercise.