Simple Stretches to Combat All That Sitting

Done correctly, these restorative stretches, working on muscles from your eyes to your toes, really do make you feel better.

Whether you are hunched over a laptop in a makeshift work space or slouched on the couch binge-watching TV, you know — and can feel — that sitting for long periods can sabotage your health. From head to toe, these simple exercises can provide relief, restore muscle function and improve posture.

For strained eyes

Too much screen time can result in headaches blurred vision and itchy eyes. To alleviate strain and strengthen your eyes, try eye rolls. Sit up straight, and look down to your right, roll your eyes toward the sky, then to the left and down back to the ground. Then roll your eyes in the opposite direction. Repeat five times.

For a sore neck and tense shoulders

Typing on a computer or tapping on a phone — whether standing or sitting — draws our focus and our head forward as we look down. As that happens, the upper trapezius muscle and neck lengthen and tense, and the muscles in the front of our body contract and shorten. Over time, that causes tension in the neck, shoulders and upper back.

This self-massage technique immediately releases neck tension: Start by looking over each shoulder and noticing where your gaze lands. Now, start the stretch on the right side by dropping your right ear to your right shoulder. Take two fingers to the top of your neck behind your left ear and find the sternocleidomastoid muscle, the little valley that runs down your neck. Gently walk your fingers down this muscle, palpitating as you go. [Editor’s note: This feels fantastic.] Repeat on the other side. Now look over your shoulders again and notice how far you can see. You can do this stretch standing or sitting.

For another seated stretch to help you open your shoulders, release tight chest muscles and combat poor posture, scoot to the edge of your chair or stool, extend your arms behind your back and interlace your fingers. Try to keep the palms together and actively roll your shoulders back and puff up your chest. To deepen the stretch, start to lift your clasped hands. Hold the stretch for up to a minute.


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