By Mary Ann Wilson, RN
Whether you are fitting exercise into your work schedule at the office or just taking a break at your desk at home while writing monthly bills, letters, or working at your home computer, you’ll find the following exercises will improve your concentration, make you more alert, and relieve tension.
Stretching is especially important for anyone who works with electronic devices like computer keyboards. It takes less effort and fewer changes in hand position to push computer keys than typewriter keys.
As a result, tension builds up in your hands, shoulders, and forearms, making you vulnerable to cramps or stiffness. In addition, neck and back problems can arise from straining at a computer monitor or from talking on the phone for extended periods of time.
Sitting for prolonged periods of time, weakens stomach and back muscles, compounds lower back problems, and reduces your range of motion.
Here’s a routine that you’ll find useful the next time you are working at your desk:
Chest and Shoulder Stretch
Hold back of chair with both hands and lean forward away from chair to feel the stretch.
Tricep and Shoulder Stretch
Clasp hands and extend arms fully forward and then up to ceiling 4 times.
Then push clasped hands – keeping arms by ears – right 4 times – left 4 times.
Bring right arm across body and place right hand on left shoulder. Gently pull right elbow as close to your chest as comfortable and still feel a stretch – using the left hand to do the pulling. (Repeat exercise with left arm.)
Upper Back Stretch
Clasp hands – extend arms fully – Round spine and pull abdominals in.
Upper Back Strength
Reach up with both hands (unclasped) above head.
Pull arms down and back, leading with elbows. Squeeze shoulder blades.
Hook left arm over left side of chair back. Reach across body with right arm and hold left side of chair seat. Straighten spine and align neck. Turn head and look over left shoulder – then look forward. (Repeat exercise to the right by hooking right arm over right side of chair.)
Posture – Breath – Abdominals
Sit tall – lift ribcage to open chest. Breathe in deeply. As you breathe out – tighten abdominals and press your back into the back of the chair.
Drop right ear to right shoulder – press left palm down to floor. (Repeat exercise to left.)
Lower Back and Hamstring Stretch
Reach under right knee with both hands (clasp hands). Then pull right knee and thigh as close to chest as possible. Feel the stretch in the hamstring and lower back muscles. While still holding knee to chest, circle toes right 4 times and left 4 times to lubricate ankle joint and increase circulation. (Repeat exercise with left knee.)
Extend right leg with ankle flexed. Feel the stretch in calf muscle (the back of the lower leg).
REMEMBER: THIS SHOULD NOT BE PAINFUL.
(Repeat exercise with left leg.)
Finger Stretch (Check with your doctor or therapist if you have arthritis.)
Now let’s stretch one finger at a time, using one hand to do the stretching. Keep the hand you are stretching relaxed. Lift gently – to your point of comfort. End with stroking – pretend putting a glove on.
Studies show that even minimal exercise will relieve tension and improve performance. So the next time you find yourself becoming tired or tense at your desk, make it a point to try these exercises.