Stretching At Work

Sitting at a desk all day at work can take a toll on your body. Your back can feel tired, your arms and legs feel tense and your neck may hurt. Slumping over in your chair can wreck your upper back and shoulders. Sit up straight and exercise regularly throughout the day to avoid back pain and stiff muscles. You can stretch your muscles and exercise your body while sitting at your desk. Stretching at your desk can help stimulate your circulation and help avoid an aching back. You will feel more invigorated and less tired after a few stretching exercises at your desk. 
Photo Credit: Public Domain
Begin stretching by tucking your chin. Look straight ahead and straighten your back. Drop your shoulders slightly and then tuck your chin toward your chest. Resist the urge to slump your shoulders. Tighten your abdominal muscles and keep your back straight and your shoulders back. Hold the stretch straight forward for 10 seconds. Turn your chin toward your left shoulder and hold for another 10 seconds and then turn toward your right shoulder. Return your chin to the middle of your chest. Repeat this exercise 10 times. 
Stretch your neck muscles to help relieve tension in your neck and upper back. Sit up straight in your chair with your shoulders straight and your knees together. Look straight ahead and then slowly lower your right ear toward your right shoulder. Hold the position for up to 30 seconds when you feel the muscles on your left side begin to stretch. Repeat this exercise on the other side. 
After stretching your neck, focus on your shoulders and upper back. Look straight ahead and sit up tall in your chair. Drop your shoulders slightly. Roll your shoulders in a circle toward the front 10 times and the reverse the rotation toward the back.  Next, sit up tall and push both of your shoulders back toward the back of your chair. You should feel your chest muscles stretching. Relax and then repeat 8 to 10 times.

For more information and examples of stretching at work, see:
Mayo Clinic, Slide Show: Office Stretches, 2010

Stretch for Flexibility

Warming up your muscles by stretching prior to exercise can help you improve your flexibility and avoid injury. Muscle strains and tears can be painful. A torn muscle or ligament may take weeks to heal, and in some cases, may even require surgery and rehabilitation. Take care of your muscles before exercising by performing about 10 minutes of stretching exercises. Stretching after a workout is a good way to cool down and relax your muscles.
Sit on the floor and spread your legs slightly. Keep your back straight and your chin down as you reach forward toward  your left foot. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds. Slowly return to an upright position and repeat on the right side. Next, stretch the muscles of your upper back by pulling your knees toward your chest. Lie on your back and put your feet flat on the floor by bending your knees. Grab one knee with your hands and gently pull your knee toward your chest. Stop when you feel the muscles in your lower back stretching. Hold the stretch for 20 to 30 seconds and then repeat with the other knee. 
Photo Credit: José Vílchez, CC-BY-SA-3.0 2008
Stretch your calf muscles by standing parallel to a wall or holding onto a sturdy chair. Put your left foot behind the right and keep your right foot flat on the floor. Keep your back straight and then slowly bend your right knee to lower your body toward the floor a few inches. Bend your knee as far as you can without causing pain and hold the position for up to 30 seconds. Switch sides and repeat the stretch. 
Playing golf, tennis, handball and racquetball can result in a torn rotator cuff if you over-exert. A rotator cuff injury is painful and may require weeks of rehabilitative exercise to repair. You may avoid a rotator cuff injury by warming up with some shoulder stretches prior to exercise. To stretch your shoulder and increase flexibility, cross your right arm over your chest and hold it with your left hand just above the elbow. Gently pull your arm toward the left side of your body until you feel the muscles stretch. Hold for 15 to 20 seconds and repeat with the other arm. 
Improve your posture, increase the flexibility and strengthen the muscles in your upper back by stretching your shoulders. Stand up straight with your legs apart about shoulder width. Keep your arms relaxed at your side and the squeeze your shoulder blades together. Pull your arms back and bend your elbows slightly. Hold the stretch for 25 to 30 seconds, then relax. Repeat this stretch two or three times.
Leg muscles are susceptible to muscle and tendon injury if you run or jog. Stretch your hamstrings by lying on the floor with your feet near a wall.  Raise your right leg and put your heel against the wall. Keep your right knee slightly bent. Push against the wall to straighten out your right leg. You should feel the hamstring along the back of your thigh stretch. Hold the position for 20 seconds and then switch sides. Next, stretch the quadriceps muscles of your legs. Lean against a wall or hold onto a sturdy chair or table with one hand. Grab your ankle with the other hand and pull your foot toward your buttocks until you feel the muscles in the front of your thigh begin to pull and stretch. Keep your upper body straight and try to avoid slouching or leaning forward. Squeeze your abdominal muscles to help keep your body erect. Return to a standing position after about 30 seconds and then stretch the other leg.
Stretching should not cause pain. If you feel pain during a stretch, reduce the intensity of the stretch and see a doctor if soreness or swelling occur. 
For more information and stretching exercises, see:
Mayo Clinic, Stretching: Focus on Flexibility, February 2011.