By Mary Ann Wilson, RN
Whether you are fitting exercise into your work schedule at the office, writing monthly bills, or working at your home computer, the following desk exercises will improve your concentration, make you more alert, and relieve tension. Proceed gently with each exercise and listen to your body. Stay within your personal comfort zone. Begin all desk exercises in good posture as outlined above. Hold stretches marked with an * for a count of 10 to 30 seconds as tolerated for best results. Never bounce a stretch. Stretches should not be painful.
1. Neck Stretch
Slowly drop right ear toward right shoulder. Press left palm down to floor. Repeat exercise to the left.
2. Shoulder and Side Stretch*
Clasp hands and turn palms away from you. Straighten elbows and raise arms overhead. Bend and extend elbows 3 times, pressing up toward the ceiling. Keep your head in good alignment. Press clasped hands up toward the right 3 times then left 3 times, feeling a side stretch between the shoulder and the waist.
3. Triceps (back of upper arm) Stretch*
Bring right arm across body. Place right hand on left shoulder. Place the left hand behind the right elbow and gently pull the right upper arm closer to your body. Rotate trunk to the left and look over left shoulder. Inhale, and as you exhale, return to center. (Repeat exercise with left arm.)
4. Posture Strengthener
Reach overhead with both hands, fingers stretched open. Pull elbows down and back, gradually closing fists, bending elbows to about 90% and squeezing shoulder blades toward each other.
5. Rib Lift
Clasp hands behind head. Stretch elbows back as you inhale. Notice that your ribs lift. Exhale as you reach overhead first with your right hand, then your left, pushing the palms toward the ceiling. Press palms out to the sides and down. Squeeze the shoulder blades together as you push your palms back. Relax.
6. Torso Twist
Hook left elbow 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 slowly and look over left shoulder. Look forward then over your right shoulder. (Repeat exercise to the right by hooking right arm over right side of chair. Look right first, then left.)
7. Lower Back Extension/Flexion
Place hands in small of back. Gently and slowly bend backward by lifting the chest and increasing the inward curve in the small of your back. Reverse, flattening your lower back, pressing it toward the back of the chair. Tighten the abdominal muscles. Repeat several times, slowly alternating between back extension and flexion.
8. Ankle Motion and Calf Stretch*
Raise heels, bending across ball of foot, then raise toes, keeping heels on floor. Alternate several times. Circle the right ankle clockwise (CW) then counterclockwise (CCW) several times. Straighten right knee. Pull toes toward you, flexing the ankle. Hold for 10 seconds, then point/flex/point/flex the ankle. (Repeat circles and stretch with left leg.)
9. Wrist Range of Motion Twister
Clasp hands, palms together, keeping bent elbows at your sides, holding hands in front of you. Bend wrists alternately to the right and left 3 times each. Bend wrists alternately toward the floor then upward 3 times. Circle wrists CW 3 times, then CCW 3 times.
10. Wrist Stretch*
Reach out in front of you with the right arm, elbow straight, hand between shoulder and waist level, palm down. Lift hand up, bending the wrist back. Use the left hand to apply gentle pressure to the right palm, stretching the wrist. Bend the wrist down, keeping elbow straight. Apply gentle pressure to the back of the right hand to stretch the wrist in the opposite direction. Now turn your right palm up, elbow straight, bend the wrist down, and again apply gentle pressure to the right palm with the left hand to gently stretch.
11. Forearm Twist
Place palms together in front of you, fingers pointing up (praying hands). Keeping heels of hands together, gently press heels of hands down so that wrists and elbows approach the same level. (Stay within your comfort zone–if your wrists are tight, your elbows may remain lower than your wrists). Twist forearms so that fingertips face away from the body, then back up. Repeat several times.
12. Finger Motion and Strengthening
Make a soft fist, palm down, then stretch your fingers open all the way, spreading fingers apart. Circle thumbs clockwise then counter-clockwise 3 times, followed by circles with each finger. Turn palms up then down 3 times, making sure to go through the full range of motion. With palms up, make a circle by touching the pads of your thumbs to your index fingers. Press gently for a count of 3. Repeat in turn with each finger. Relax and open hand slowly and completely. Repeat 3 times. End by shaking hands out.