With virtual classes and at-home work, it’s no wonder why many people are experiencing more pain in the neck and back than usual. Sitting in a chair all day, your back slouched and neck bent, is just not good for you. Period.
It’s important to remain in motion throughout the day. I recommend scheduling a quick stretching routine a few times during the workday.
Otherwise, it’s all too easy to get caught up in what you’re doing and forget to listen to your body. Ideally, you’d get up from your chair every hour, but even stretching a bit every once in a while helps.
Excessive computer use is associated with neck pain, research has shown. And with pandemic safety measures ongoing in most US states, this means the large numbers of folks working remotely are all more susceptible to stiffness and aches.
Even without the increase in computer use, neck pain is cited as the second most common musculoskeletal disorder. But there are plenty of ways to address chronic pain from computer overload and start feeling better.
I’ve prepared this stretch routine of circular motions to help you combat any stiffness from too much sedentary screen time. These simple exercises address different parts of your body, relieving tension and allowing you to feel loose again.
Slouching down the shoulders is common when working at a computer. You might not even notice you’re doing it.
Arm circles help address shoulder stiffness and will get your blood flowing after sitting down for a while. This move is also a great way to engage your back. With this circular movement, you’re stretching your back as well as your shoulders while simultaneously getting in a quick arm workout.
Start by standing up straight with your arms extended out from your sides.
Start moving your arms in a small circular motion, gradually building up to larger movements.
Continue to make bigger circles, making sure you feel the stretch in your shoulders, arms and back.
After 10 seconds, reverse the motion, making ever wider circles.
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Typing all day long causes a lot of stiffness in your wrists and hands, and too many people don’t even think to address this pain.
Wrist circles help your wrists stay flexible. Doing this movement before strength-training exercises like pushups or weightlifting also prevents injury. This exercise is important for keeping your wrists strong throughout the day.
Bend your elbows to put your wrists out in front of you.
Begin rotating your wrists in one direction for about 10 seconds before switching to the other direction.
You can move both wrists at once, or focus on one at a time if you’d like.
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Hip circles will put your core in motion while stretching your back and hips. This move is the perfect exercise to combat full-body stiffness.
Begin standing, with your feet shoulder width apart and your hands on your hips. Rotate your hips, starting with small circles.
Gain momentum and movement as you make bigger, fuller circles with your hips.
You should feel your back and hips start to loosen up. Hip circles will improve your flexibility, get your blood flowing and relieve tension. Do 10 hip circles in one direction, and then do 10 more rotating the other way.
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Prolonged sitting can lead to a lack of circulation in the ankles and feet, which can cause them to become swollen. And while you don’t apply pressure to ankles most of the time while sitting, that doesn’t mean they’re getting the proper amount of movement to remain flexible and strong if you’re sedentary day in and day out.
Ankle circles help you maintain range of motion, and they can be done in almost any position. Without proper ankle mobility, your ankles may lose the flexibility they need to perform everyday activities and exercises.
For this exercise, remain seated. Bend one knee and cross it over your other leg so that your foot is closer to the rest of your body. Begin rotating that ankle in one direction, then switch to the other direction.
Follow the same process for the other ankle. It can be helpful to switch directions back and forth, or do a certain number of circles in one direction and then the other.
Take it slow, and make sure each ankle feels loose before you move on. Do 10 ankle circles in each direction to start.
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If you sit at a desk all day, it’s likely that your knees are bent, or maybe you cross your legs out of habit. To avoid cramps and poor blood flow, ideally both feet are on the ground, directly in front of you, so be aware of your seated position.
Either way, without stretching and moving your legs, they become stiff and lose range of motion. Leg circles are meant to get your blood flowing and your legs and hips moving. This move can be performed lying down or standing up.
If standing, begin with your feet shoulder width apart and your hands on your hips. Pick which leg you’d like to move first, and lift it off the ground and begin circling.
Begin small, and gradually create bigger circles with your leg. By lifting your leg higher as your circles become bigger, you’re stretching your hamstrings and quads as well.
Do 10 leg circles in one direction and then rotate your leg the other way. Then follow the same steps for your other leg.
If your body is feeling stiff from working at home, there are plenty of stretches you can do to loosen up. All you have to do is go with a circular flow.
Stephanie Mansour, host of “Step It Up With Steph” on PBS, is a health and wellness journalist and a consultant and weight loss coach for women.