Healthy Desk Stretches to Do at Work

Working at a desk all day can be stressful, especially when you take no precautions regarding your physical and mental health. While office stretches and good habits may seem minor, incorporating them into your routine can yield long-term positive effects on productivity and mood.

In this blog we explore some common, bad desk habits, and some simple stretches that can help relieve body pain frequently associated with a sedentary lifestyle. The compounding effects of these habits and activities as a daily routine will have a noticeable impact on your productivity and mood in (and out of) the workplace.

Bad Desk Habits

Habits are recurrent, often unconscious patterns of behaviour acquired through frequent repetition. We go through the day performing many different habits; for instance, you wake up and brush your teeth, or you get in the car and automatically put on your seat-belt. But not all of our habits are good.

The Mayo Clinic found that those who sat for more than eight hours a day with no physical activity had a risk of dying similar to that posed by obesity and smoking. Indeed, increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist, unhealthy cholesterol levels and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer are all linked to sitting for prolonged periods of time. 

Recognising and altering unhealthy habits is crucial to avoid this, especially for those with sedentary work lives. Reflect on your daily habits— do you find yourself sitting for extended periods with minimal physical activity? This could be the root of some of your health problems, and fixing this is the first step towards creating healthier, more active habits.

Identify Your Habit

The first way to change a habit is by identifying the problem, in our scenario, not leading an overly active lifestyle. While it’s difficult to completely overhaul your mentality as habits are often deeply ingrained in our subconscious, there are quick improvement you can do that may have an immediate impact.

Out with the Bad, in with the Good

It's no surprise that standing desks, otherwise known as sit-stand desks, are becoming extremely popular in the office scene, as they have an instant impact on the modern habit of spending too much time sitting down. Embracing sit-stand desks is a contemporary solution, disrupting the habit of prolonged sitting and encouraging a more active work routine. Indeed, there are a number of health benefits associated with standing desks, such as better posture, reduced back pain and improved mood. 

You might even find that spending more time standing up while you are in your work environment will impact your habits outside of it, initiating a move towards more active lifestyle.

For more information, check out our blog on Three Ways Standing Desks Improve Your Commercial Office.

Other habits, like eating at your desk, poor posture and excessive screen time can impact your health over time. Sitting properly at your desk, taking regular breaks and eating away from your workspace can all help.  

In addition to this, doing some easy stretches - whether you are sitting or standing - can make a significant difference in addressing and preventing health problems. Here are some of our favourite stretches to do at a desk.

Desk Stretches

Studies have shown that repeating the same motions, bad posture, and sedentary sitting for hours on end can worsen musculoskeletal disorders. Desk stretches serve as a proactive approach to counteract the negative effects of a sedentary lifestyle - and it's simple to learn. 

Neck and Shoulder Desk Stretches

Starting at the top, let's begin with some neck stretches.

  1. Relax and lean your head forward.
  2. Slowly roll towards one side and hold for 10 seconds.
  3. Repeat the process on the other side.
  4. After both sides are complete, return to centre position and repeat the whole process three times on each side.

    Next, let's stretch our upper traps.

    1. Gently pull your head towards each shoulder until you feel a light stretch.
    2. Hold the pose for 10 to 15 seconds, then alternate to the other side.

      Lastly, we have some shoulder shrugs.

      1. Rise both shoulders at once towards your ears.
      2. Drop them and repeat the process ten times.

        Arm Desk Stretches

        Let's move to the triceps.

        1. Raise your arm and bend it, so your hand reaches the opposite side.
        2. Using your other hand, pull the elbow towards your head.
        3. You can add a slight lean for a deeper stretch.
        4. Hold this for 10 to 30 seconds and then repeat on the opposite side.

        Now, we're going to do an overhead reach, which will work your upper body and arms.

        1. Extend each arm over your head and reach to the opposite side.
        2. You should feel the stretch in your Latissimus Doris muscles.
        3. Hold this for 10 to 30 seconds and repeat on the opposite side.
        4. Lastly, clasp your hands together above your head with your palms facing outward. Push your arms up, stretching upwards.
        5. Hold the pose for 10 to 30 seconds.

          Torso Desk Stretch

          Alright, we're now going to stretch your upper body.

          1. Clasp your hands behind your back and push your chest outward, raising your chin. Hold this pose for 10 to 30 seconds.
          2. From here we are going to do a torso twist.
          3. Keep your feet firmly on the ground and face forward.
          4. Twist your upper body in the direction your arm is resting on the back of the chair.
          5. Hold this for 10 to 30 seconds and repeat on the opposite side.
          6. If you exhale as you twist into the direction of the arm, you can get an extra range of motion.

            Back Desk Stretch

            And then it's your back's turn - one of the most common places to feel pain after sitting for prolonged periods of time with poor posture 

            1. Sit up straight in your chair with your feet flat on the floor.
            2. Place your hands on your knees.
            3. Inhale and arch your back, pushing your chest forward, lifting your gaze towards the ceiling, and sticking your tailbone out.
            4. Exhale and round your spine, bringing your chin towards your chest, and tucking your tailbone under.
            5. Focus on the stretch in your upper and middle back, and repeat this movement for 10-30 seconds.

            Leg Desk Stretch

            Last but not least, let's do a hip and knee stretch.

            1. Hug one knee at a time, pulling it towards your chest.
            2. Hold this pose anywhere from 10 to 30 seconds and then alternate.
            3. Remaining in the same position, extend one leg out and reach for your toes.
            4. Hold again for 10 to 30 seconds and then repeat on the other side.

              You can also do seated leg lift, where you lift one leg at a time, keeping it straight, and hold for 10-15 seconds

              It is essential only to stretch one leg at a time, as doing both legs could cause back issues.

              Engaging in desk stretches also helps improve blood flow, by delivering essential nutrients and oxygen to the brain, and reminds you to maintain proper posture as you "reset" between stretching sessions. 

              How Often Should You Stretch When Working at a Desk?

              When working at a desk for extended periods, it's important to incorporate regular stretching breaks to help prevent muscle tightness and musculoskeletal disorders. In general, you should aim to take a five minute break and stretch every hour at your desk. Alternatively, you could take shorter breaks every 20-30 minutes where you stretch for a minute or two. 


              Everyone’s different so tailor these stretches to whatever works for you - after all, it's a lot easier to do some of these in your home, out of sight of your colleagues! 

              The next time you are feeling a little tense, take some time out of your work day and do some stretches. Consider adding a standing desk into your workspace to encourage movement and help you form habits that can lead to a more active lifestyle.

              Looking for a standing desk for your home, office or workspace to achieve all the above mentioned benefits,? Check out our collection of standing desks, available for next working day delivery if ordered by 3pm. Our desks come with a 7 year warranty, 30 day risk free return, as well as access to a UK-based customer service team to answer any questions that you might have. We not only have top-notch quality material used in all our products, but we also offer several different kinds of standing desks for you to choose from.

              Shop Standing Desks  Shop Desk Accessories

              Date Published: July 14, 2021

              Last Updated: December 5, 2023