Stay Stacked: Stretch it Out
We've already told you about the importance of continual movement of the legs during a long session seated at a poker table or computer to avoid the risks of DVT. And we've also touched on the importance of exercising the eyes to prevent the onset of eyestrain. Today, we're focusing on the upper body, with a guide to some simple stretches that you can do in, or by, your seat to help relieve muscle pain and strain, also caused from lack of movement. I’m sure you can agree that no matter how comfortable you may feel when you first sit down, after time, your body starts to pay the price.
According to the Canadian Center for Occupational Health and Safety, it’s recommended that a person breaks for five to 10 minutes for every hour spent at a workstation. So here are some suggested exercises to do while taking that break thanks to my dear friend, and owner of Doncaster Osteopathic Clinic and 213 Osteopathy Blackburn, in Australia, Dr. Emily Mankey.
The Chest (this is my all-time fav)
This is one to do at home. Roll up a towel into a log and gently lay across it with the towel running along your spine. Take a deep breath and allow your shoulders to drop down on either side of the towel, keeping your shoulders away from your ears and resting your elbows gently on the floor.
Be sure to stay within pain-free range, as this can be quite an intense stretch for the first 10 to 20 seconds. Once you have eased into the position, you can make the “snow angel” action to advance the stretch, while still keeping the shoulders away from the ears. This is a fantastic way to open up the chest and shoulders after a long day of sitting with a poor posture. Sometimes I just chill here for a solid five minutes or more. It’s really relaxing.
If you’re not at home, then place your hands behind your head, relax your shoulders back and down, and squeeze your shoulder blades together. Hold that for 20 to 30 seconds, and then repeat a few more times.
With all of that mouse-clicking or chip-shuffling going on, your shoulders can hold a lot of stress and tension after a long session. You may find that you sometimes shrug your shoulders instinctively to release this tension; well the reason is because your body is calling out for it. So, make sure you do it thoroughly to bring back a little circulation into those stressed shoulders. Shrug your shoulders up to your ears, hold them there, and squeeze as hard as you can for a couple of seconds, then roll them in a circular motion on the way back down and repeat as many times as you like.
Tilt your head to the left, aiming your left ear toward your left shoulder, while dropping the right shoulder (just like Zuzana Light of BodyRock.tv is doing in the lead image). Be sure to not push your head further than what is naturally comfortable. Hold this position for 20 to 30 seconds, then roll your chin slowly across your chest, stopping in the middle to allow the back of the neck to stretch for a further 20 to 30 seconds. Then continue your head around until your right ear is then leaning toward your right shoulder, while drawing the left shoulder downward. Hold here for another 20 to 30 seconds. Repeat as many times as you like. Sitting on your hands can assist with drawing the opposite shoulder downward.
It’s not just your back and shoulders that are affected the hardest in a session, your forearms also tend to tighten up, so be sure to regularly release them through some simple wrist movements. Doing this as often as possible can help avoid the onset of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.
After circling the wrists in both directions, stretch one arm out in front of you with your fingers pointed toward the floor (you can do this with the palm facing your body, as well as facing outward for two different stretches) using the other arm, gently pull the hand in towards your body as far as you can comfortably go while feeling the stretch through the arm. Repeat with the other side.
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*A big thank-you goes to BodyRock.tv for the much-appreciated image!