The longer the COVID lockdown has gone on for, the more we’ve become accustomed to our work from home lives. Use.Space have told you how to stay productive at home, and shown you why a greener home office will save the planet as much as your sleeping pattern, but while sitting at our desks home has become the norm, we’ve all started to feel the strain of tech neck on our bodies.
Wherever you’ve set up your home office, you’re going to want to stay as comfortable as possible for those long working hours. We know it’s not always going to be possible (not everyone can shop a Herman Miller chair for their setup), so we’ve come up with 17 handy exercises for you to stay flexible and happy while you wile away at your keyboard.
Before we reveal all though, here are some techniques to remember to make desk life easier. By integrating these into your everyday routine, you should reduce the strain on your body while you’re sitting at your desk.
Keep your monitor at eye level (and use a headrest)
A study by the Surgical Technology International journal has found that even leaning your neck forward by 15 degrees will add 12 kilos of pressure onto your spine and the muscles around it. The further forward you lean, the more pressure on your body.
Reduce any neck flexion by sitting your computer on a stand so that your screen is always at eye level. If you can, make sure you sit at a chair with a headrest too. The back of your neck touching the rest means you’re sitting at the right angle for your body to be comfortable.
If you want to, you can even invest in a standing desk. If it’s good enough for Hemingway, it could be good enough for you.
This might seem obvious, but the better your breathing, the better your whole body functions. Michael Townsend Williams talks of the ‘bodymind’ in his book Breathe, part of the Do: Series. Your body affects your mind and your mind affects your body, so treat them as one. The best way to do that is to breathe properly. The simplest way to do that is:
1. Breathe in and out from the belly
2. Breathe in and out through the nose
3. Breathe out a bit more than you breathe in
As much as water keeps you hydrated, it’s also key in keeping you flexible. Because the discs in your spine are largely made of water, frequent hydration means they can stay healthy and pliable, and helps reduce the chance of tech neck.
Perfect your pose
Your hips should be above your knee. Sit right back in your seat, so your whole back is supported. The natural curve of your lower back should fit against the curve of the back rest of your chair. The back rest should be slightly reclined by around 10–15 degrees. Relax your shoulders, and keep your elbows at 90 degrees, just above the desk.
We’re sure you know all about the Pomodoro technique, but you don’t only have to use it to stay on top of your productivity. Use a break every 25 minutes to stretch your arms and hands while you look away from the screen, on your longer break, make sure you walk around. Make use of the space around you. It’s good for you.
Keep stuff within reach
You may have already noticed that the more you’re stretching to grab things from your desk, the less support your chair is going to give your back. Arrange your desk at home as efficiently as you would at work.
Use the technology
There are plenty of apps that can help you keep your posture in check. NeckGuard helps you sit comfortably and efficiently while you use mobile devices, with a technique you can transfer to your home office. Another way to lessen the strain on your neck is to use voice commands on your devices while you look straight ahead, Google Docs introduced voice typing technology back in 2015. Try it out while you’re at home, as it may not work as well in a busy office environment.
If you’re not sure what the best stretching techniques are for keeping you comfortable at your desk, fear no more, we’ve compiled the best around into this handy 17 point list. These should make your work from home life that much easier, as well as helping you get more flexible. It’s a win-win.
1. Seated spinal rotation
While seated, cross your arms over your chest. Grab your shoulders. Rotate your upper body from the waist, turning gently from left to right as far as feels comfortable. You should feel a tension on both side of your lower back as it stretches out.
2. Posterior shoulder stretch
Stand up, hold one arm across your body horizontally. Your left arm should be pointing towards to your right hand side. Pull your elbow into your chest. You should feel your shoulder gently stretching.
3. Shoulder shrugs
While sitting, gently lift your shoulders, then let them fall slowly. You should feel tension released as your shoulders drop.
4. Sitting back extensions
Sit back with your feet together. Put the palm of your hands onto the small of your back. Lean back over your hands, pushing your belly out, you should feel your lower back stretch out.
5. Neck rotations
While sitting, keep your head upright. Gently turn your head from side to side. As you turn your head, try to move it past your shoulder. You should feel the muscles on the outside of your neck gradually stretching.
6. Upper shoulder and neck stretch
Sit on one hand. Tilt your head away from the hand you’re sitting on. Tilt your head slightly forward, towards your shoulder. You should feel the muscles in your neck and shoulder being stretched. Change sides, and repeat.
7. Shoulder extension pt. one
Stand up and stretch your arms out behind you. Clasp your hands together and gently lift your arms. You should feel your shoulders and chest stretching.
8. Shoulder extension pt. two
While standing, hold both arms above your head. Link your hands with your palms facing upwards. Reach as high as possible. You should feel your shoulders stretching.
9. Corner stretch
Stand facing a corner with your feet together approximately 2 feet from the wall. Place your forearms on each wall and keep your elbows just below shoulder height. Lean forward as far as possible and hold for 30 seconds to a minute. You should feel the tension through your shoulders and upper body.
10. Chest stretch
In a seated or standing position, take your arms behind you and, if you can, lace your fingers together. Straighten the arms and gently lift your hands up a few inches until you feel a stretch in your chest. Hold for 10 to 30 seconds.
11. Forearm stretch
Seated or standing, stretch the right arm out and turn the hand down so that the fingers point towards the floor. Use the left hand to gently pull the fingers towards you, feeling a stretch in the forearm. Hold for 10 to 30 seconds and repeat on the other hand.
12. Hip flexor stretch
While standing, take the right leg back a few feet. Bend the back knee, almost like you’re doing a lunge and lower the knees until you feel a stretch in the front of the right hip. Squeeze the glutes of the back leg to deepen the stretch. Hold for 10 to 30 seconds and repeat on the other side.
13. Seated hip stretch
While seated, cross the right ankle over the left knee and sit up nice and tall. Gently lean forward, keeping the back straight and reaching out with the torso until you feel a stretch in the right glute and hip. You can also press down on the right knee to deepen the stretch. Hold for 10 to 30 seconds and repeat on the other side. You can skip this move if it bothers your knees.
14. Inner thigh stretch
While seated, take the legs wide, toes out and lean forward with the elbows on the thighs. Keep your back straight and the abs contracted. Gently press forward while using your elbows to push the thighs out until you feel a stretch in the inner thighs. Hold for 10 to 30 seconds and repeat as many times as you like.
15. Triceps stretch
While sitting, raise your arm and bend it so that your hand reaches toward the opposite side. Use your other hand and pull the elbow toward your head. Hold for 10 to 30 seconds. Repeat on the other side.
16. Overhead reach
While sitting, extend each arm overhead. Reach to the opposite side. Hold for 10 to 30 seconds. Repeat on the other side.
17. Upper body and arm stretch
While sitting, clasp hands together above your head with palms facing outward. Push your arms up, stretching upward. Hold the pose for 10 to 30 seconds.
So there you have it, 17 of the best mini exercises for your indoor office. While they’re no substitute for physical outdoor activity, trying these throughout your working day should make your life that much easier. Go forth and streeeeetch.
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