Working from home has become fairly commonplace, with Zoom calls and online conferences a cornerstone of remote working life. Sitting for hours in front of a computer without a break can be very detrimental to your health, causing chronic back and neck pain, thanks to the stiffness that’s caused in these areas from being sedentary for too long.
According to the Mayo Clinic, sitting for long periods of time has been linked with a number of health concerns affecting metabolism. These include obesity, increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist, and abnormal cholesterol levels. (1)
Simple stretching exercises between Zoom calls can help maintain muscle tone, your ability to move, and your mental well-being as well as minimizing back and neck pain. Try these 7 stretches to start releasing the tightness that has developed in your back, shoulders, chest, and core. Repeat each stretch 10 times every 2 hours or more frequently if you feel the need.
If you do not have much time between Zoom calls, break up poor sitting posture and get your circulation going with these sitting stretches. You can also do these stretches during a Zoom call.
Cat Cow This move opens the shoulders and chest. Flexing and extending the spine can help improve circulation in your vertebral discs.
How: Inhale while tilting your tailbone back and up. Pull your shoulder blades together, down, and back while pushing your chest forward. Look up towards the ceiling. Stretch arms out from your sides. Next, exhale while tucking the chin and rounding the spine. Pull your navel in. Separate your shoulder blades and curve your shoulders forward and take your gaze toward your belly. Fold arms in front of you.
Reach and Rotate This builds strength in your legs and shoulders while stretching your hips. The twists will also help maintain healthy spinal movement and healthy discs. Especially good for lower back pain.
How: In a seated position, make a “T” shape with your arms, and then twist the spine crossing one arm over the opposite knee while the other reaches toward the ceiling. Come back through the center with capital T arms and repeat on the opposite side.
Because you are usually sitting during Zoom calls and meetings, you need to periodically stand and stretch. When you sit, your hips are flexed, shortening the muscles of the hips. Standing and stretching between calls can greatly help reduce the negative effects of lengthy sitting.
Reach and Squat This stretches your torso muscles and your glutes.
How: Stand up. Reach up as high as you can with your arms and stretch the front of your body. Then move into a deep squat to activate the glute muscles.
Split Stance with Torso Rotation Builds strength in your legs and shoulders while stretching your hips. The twists will also help maintain healthy spinal movement for your discs.
How: Go into a mini lunge keeping your hips locked forward. Rotate your torso towards the leading leg. Switch legs and repeat.
Split Stance Reach Up and Down This move lengthens the body by stretching the shoulders, chest, mid-back, hips, and ankles. It is the perfect antidote for chair-tightened joints and muscles.
How: Start in a mini lunge. Reach up with the arm that is opposite the leading leg. The other arm reaches down. Switch leading leg and arms. Repeat.
Standing Cat Cow Sitting tends to pull our shoulders inward and collapse our chest. This move opens the shoulders and chest.
How: From a standing position, interlace your fingers and press the palms away, rounding shoulders, rotating the arms in, thumbs pointing down. Release, opening up, spreading arms wide open with thumbs up and reaching slightly backward for a little backbend.
Side Stretch This stretches and strengthens the intercostal muscles which are between the ribs.
How: From sitting or standing, place your feet hip-width apart. Extend one arm over the head and bend from the waist on that side, elongating the whole side from hip to pinky finger. Repeat on the opposite side.
If you want more variety, try these five physical therapy stretches in five minutes demonstrated on YouTube. (2)
Finally, if you are spending a lot of time in front of your computer for business or pleasure, explore ergonomic desk and chair setups. This will greatly improve your posture and stress, relieving any chronic pain from sitting incorrectly for a long time. (3)