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Sitting a lot? What you need to know and do

Small changes and simple stretches for every day

It’s no secret that sitting down too much can be bad for your health. It can cause back, neck or shoulder pain and reduce mobility and flexibility. A sedentary lifestyle can also increase the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes or heart disease.

The good news is that you can reduce sitting by adding small moments for movement and regular stretching each day.

Start with some basics

If you’re working at a desk, it’s important to sit up straight and avoid slouching. Keep your feet flat, your knees bent at a slight angle down from your hip to your knee and your arms at a right angle to your desk. Keep your monitor at eye level or slightly below.

Break up your sitting time with a 1-2 minute break every 30 minutes – it can be as simple as standing, taking a quick walk or doing a standing stretch.

Keep mental health top of mind

Moving more is good for your body, but it can also benefit your brain and reduce stress and anxiety. Movement increases blood flow, including to the brain, which improves concentration, memory, creativity, learning, and mental stamina.

Stretch your way to wellness

Having a go-to list of moves can help make stretching part of your daily routine. These stretches can help stretch the muscles that become tight due to sitting, and can be done at a desk, a table, or anywhere you like.

Ankle Circles (Seated)

Plant one foot on the ground and hover the other foot off the ground. Use your big toe as a pencil and draw a clockwise circle 5 times, then anti-clockwise 5 times. Repeat on the other side.

Chest Stretch (Standing)

Stand with your feet hip-width apart and interlock your fingers behind your back. Roll your shoulders back and straighten your arms to push your clasped hands towards the ground. Hold 20-30 seconds.

Trunk Rotation (Standing)

Stand with your feet hip-width apart and your hands on your hips. Rotate your trunk to your right while keeping your feet and hips in place. To deepen, look over your right shoulder to involve your whole spine. Slowly turn to your left and repeat. Complete 3-5 times each side, holding for 5-10 seconds.

Spinal Stretch (Seated Cat and Cow Stretch)

Place your feet evenly on the floor. Hold your knees and tuck your chin to your chest while scooping your tail bone backwards (for a ’rounded’ spine position). Reverse by pushing your chest forward, looking towards the ceiling, and lifting your tail bone upwards. Complete 5-10 times.

To get the most out of your stretching routine:

  • spread your stretching into 5-minute sessions
  • set reminders to keep you on track
  • start slowly and ease into each stretch
  • listen to your body and stop if you feel any intense sensation or pain.

Download the Desk or Table Stretches activity plan, which has eight simple stretches that you can do while sitting or standing at a table.

Last updated: September 22, 2023 at: 4:46 pm