It is not uncommon to get to the end of a long working day and realise you have barely left your desk or lured yourself away from the computer screen. Besides feeling emotionally tense, your shoulders will more than likely be hunched up around your ears, your neck will be stiff and you will probably have a raging headache. It’s not natural for our bodies to stay in the same position all day long, so it is important to drag yourself away from the job and take regular stretching breaks. Not only will you feel more relaxed and release some of that pent up muscle tension, but it will help you re-energise and be more productive in the long run.
Remember, taking a “break” for just a few minutes every couple of hours can be as easy as rolling back from the computer and doing a few of these simple stretching exercises.
- Shoulder shrugs: To relieve tightness and tension in your shoulder and neck area, raise the top of your shoulders up towards your ears and hold for 5 seconds and then release. You can try inhaling as your raise your shoulders, holding your breath and then exhaling as you release. Repeat this exercise 2-3 times.
- Shoulder rolls: Raise the tops of your shoulders towards your ears again, but this time roll them backwards in a circular motion for around 5 rotations. Then reverse the motion and roll your shoulders forwards for another 5 rotations.
- Neck relaxer: To lengthen neck muscles and release tightness, sit or stand with a straight back. Inhale. As you exhale, slowly drop your head to your left shoulder. You should feel a nice stretch on the opposite side. Hold for 10 seconds and come back to centre and drop your head to the right side for 10 seconds. Bring your head back to centre. Inhale and as you exhale drop your chin to your chest. Inhale and roll your right ear toward your right shoulder. Exhale and bring your chin back toward your chest. Inhale and roll your left ear towards your left shoulder. Exhale and bring your chin back toward your chest. Repeat 3 times on each side.
- Hand and forearm stretch: Our poor hands, wrists and forearms certainly get a battering when working on a computer all day long. To prevent or reduce stiffness, extend your right arm out in front of you (palm facing down), and use your left hand to slowly extend your fingers back one by one. Then take them all back at the same time. Repeat on the other side. Put your palms together in a prayer like position, keeping your palms pressed together, gradually lower your hands until your forearms are horizontal. Hold for a few seconds and repeat.
- Ankle flex and stretch: In a seated position, extend one leg out in front of you, flex your ankle (point your toes up) and then point your toes. Repeat exercise 3 times and then move to the other leg.
- Back and side stretch: In a seated or standing position, interlace your fingers and extend them overhead keeping your arms straight. Slowly lean over towards the left hand side and then to the right - this one might be better to try outside where there is a little more space.
- Resting eye muscles: Give your poor eye muscles a deserved break and reduce eyestrain with the 20-20-20 rule. Every 20 minutes take your eyes away from the computer and look at something around 20 feet (around 6 metres) away from you for at least 20 seconds.