Wellness at Work - Stretch to Win!
Updated: May 8, 2019
How many of you that have jobs where you have to stand for your shift and think those who have desk jobs have it good?
What's not good about getting paid to sit you ask?
Well just as standing for prolonged periods of time can be stressful on the body, studies have shown that sitting can be just as bad, if not worse.
If you suffer from tension or pain in your neck, shoulders, back, or hips, that’s because sitting for long stretches of time is not ideal for your body or your health.
Until you acquire a standing desk which is a good start but still requires mindful movement to counter the issues prolonged standing can bring; having a plan is crucial to making it through your work day.
Sitting in front of a computer every day can wreak havoc on your body, especially since most of us don't have the best posture. Even with an ergonomic chair, wrist pad for typing and mouse work and adjustable monitors and headsets versus handheld phones, there is still more than enough opportunity for hunching of the shoulders, slumping in your seat, neck pain and so on.
Studies show that regular stretching can help reduce neck and shoulder pain and they also show that regular breaks to stand and stretch increases productivity at the office. Not only do you reduce pain and tension, but those flexibility breaks allow your eyes to rest and your entire body to feel more comfortable.
In order to understand correct stretching techniques it is beneficial to know a little about the biochemical and physiological properties of the soft tissues that are being stretched.
All soft tissues (muscles, tendons, joint capsules, fascia, skin) are more extensible when they are warm. This is because they are thermo-elastic. This is like a blacksmith working with a horseshoe; when the horseshoe is hot it can be stretched and manipulated, but when it is cooled it is rigid and inflexible.
All stretching is ineffective if it is performed when the body is cold, and should therefore be preceded by a series of warm-up exercises to increase tissue temperature.
Muscles and tendons have a neural reflex arc that prevents excessive stretching, or tension developing. Receptor nerves within the muscle are sensitive to changes in muscle length and tension.
When a muscle is stretched, the muscle spindles send a message to the central nervous system to cause a reflex contraction of the muscle in order to prevent stretch damage. However, if the stretch is maintained for more than 6 seconds the Golgi tendon organs respond to the change in muscle tension by sending a signal to the central nervous system which causes the muscle to relax.
This means that stretching exercises should be done slowly with a gradual increase in the range of movement every few seconds. The total duration of the stretch should be about 20 seconds.
So how can you incorporate stretching into your work routine?
1. Have a set of stretches that can be done seated as well as standing at your workstation. Two stretches per section of the body are good.
2. Set an alarm to go off every 45-55 minutes and perform the stretches either in their entirety or do half and the other half on your next stretch break.
3. Hold each stretch for at least 15 seconds.
4. Avoid any exercises that cause pain or discomfort.
Now that you're feeling supple and loose ... back to the grind:)!
Wondering about how you can incorporate stretching into your particular workplace? Feel free to contact me and I can answer any questions you may have:).