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June 12, 2017

5 stretches for desk rats to keep the body feeling young

Mindful Mondays Exercise
06122017_MM_Neck_Shoulders Christie Mandia/For PhillyVoice

Personal trainer Samantha Trasatti – aka @PhillyFitGirl – demonstrates a stretch to relieve the cervical strain that can result from hunching over a keyboard all day. Strain can lead to chronic headaches and neck pain.

We have all felt the effects of sitting long hours at a desk or hunching over computers and phones on a daily basis. In fact, many of the every day postures we assume are putting significant stress on the back, leading to daily discomfort and eventually, to the chronic pain that millions endure.

As our bodies get older and less agile, it is even more important to take notice of its signals and be sure to put in the time for self-care even if it is for just a few minutes each day.

Rather than reaching for a pill, realize the immediate relief and long-term benefits of performing simple stretches, perfect for any age or fitness level, developed by my friend and trainer, Samantha Trasatti aka @PhillyFitGirl.

In our first session together, Sam shared with me these amazing stretches using the OPTP Stretch band (you could use a yoga strap, too). The strap makes it easy to go deeper into the stretches yourself even if you don’t have a partner to stretch you.

This series has helped me so much that Sam has agreed to let me share her secrets below, teaching you what to do and why to ease tight muscles and undo the damage of sitting all day long. Here are five stretches to keep your body feeling young, even if you sit at a desk all day:

Christie Mandia/For PhillyVoice

Hamstring stretches relieve lower back pressure and the muscles surrounding the lumbar spine.

Hamstring Stretch

Stretching the hamstrings actually relieves lower back pressure and the muscles surrounding the lumbar spine, which typically rounds out and goes weak after sitting for too long.

To stretch, simply place your foot in the center of the strap and pull your leg towards you. Breathe deeper in to the stretch to pull your leg comfortably closer. Hold for 30 seconds, release and repeat on opposite side.

Quad/Hip Flexor Stretch

Sitting shortens the hip flexors. Tight hips are one of the most commonly seen muscle imbalances when sitting for long periods of time. Eventually, tight hips lead to lower back pain. Stretch out your quadriceps and hip flexors by laying face down on the mat. Bend your knee and loop your foot through the strap keeping the slack over your shoulder. Pull the strap forward and breathe until you feel a stretch down the front of your hip and thigh. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat on opposite side.

Christie Mandia/For PhillyVoice

Sitting shortens the hip flexors and leads to tight hips, which eventually lead to lower back pain. This stretch can help.

Neck & Shoulders

Hunching over a keyboard all day stiffens your shoulders and strains the cervical spine. This can cause chronic headaches and neck pain. With hands about two feet apart, hold your band high overhead. Slowly bend your arms behind you, keeping tension in the band, and breathe into the stretch. Hold for 30 seconds.

Chest & Biceps

Sitting at the keyboard, having the forearms rested in the same place and doing the repetitive motion of typing all day causes the muscles in your chest and arms to tighten up, or shorten, creating a ‘hunched over’ look, even when standing. By stretching and opening up your chest and biceps you can reverse this after a long day of typing. With feet hip width apart and firmly planted, take the band behind your back and hold about a foot apart. Press your arms back and feel the stretch through your chest and biceps. Breathe to open up the chest and lengthen the arms. Hold for 30 seconds and release.

Oblique Stretch

Obliques run along the sides of your torso and are part of the abdominals. Abdominals are also affected by sitting due to inactivity. By opening up and stretching the obliques you will promote the lengthening of the torso, which is shortened while seated and not engaged. Stretching the obliques will also prevent over all back pain. With arms holding the band overhead and feet just wider than hip width apart, slowly bend to the right and feel the stretch down the left side of your body. Breathe for 30 seconds and think about lengthening. Release and repeat on opposite side.

This stretching routine is safe to go through every day. Get in the habit of stretching when you wake up, before going to bed, or both. Physically, you will feel relief immediately and mentally you will feel stronger knowing that you have taken time to care for yourself. Remember, you are the only person who can take control of your body. I hope you find this information as helpful as I have.

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Please feel free to share your stories here. I will continue to keep you posted on my health journey. Follow me for updates @christiemandia.

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