What are you doing right now?
You’re reading this article, yeah. But what are you doing as you’re reading?
I’d guess you’re either sitting or standing at your desk. Or, you’re standing in your kitchen with all your weight on one hip staring down at your phone while you wait for the microwave to beep at you to let you know your plate — not your food — is hot and ready.
OK. That last bit was, well, a bit much.
Whatever the case, you’re either sitting or standing, when what you should be doing is taking a 3 minute break to stretch. Because…why not?
Sure, your smart watch might remind you to stand up every hour, but I’m not convinced that that’s enough.
Stretching is crucial to our overall wellbeing: it increases flexibility and mobility, improves bloodflow, and prevents risk of exercise-related injuries.
And yet, stretching is so easily overlooked. Your devices might be on your case to get on your feet and move, but I’m here to remind you to give your body the TLC it needs.
If you’re with me on this, roll your shoulders up and back, take a long deep breath, and loosen up.
It’s time to stretch.
1. Standing Forward Fold
A classic, and for good reason. The standing forward fold releases tightness almost everywhere — from your calves, hamstrings, lower back, neck, and shoulders.
Plus, you don’t need to be a bendy yogi for this one. Can’t touch your toes? No sweat. You’ll still get a fantastic stretch, no matter how far you can fold.
Do the stretch: Stand with your feet slightly under hip-distance apart, gently bend the knees, and roll down to touch your toes (or, as far as you can go).
Let your arms hang down as you take 5 slow, deep breaths. Maybe sway from side to side, shake your head ‘yes’ and ‘no’ to release any tension in your neck, and just let the blood flow to the head.
Get an even deeper stretch by clasping your hands behind your back and lifting your arms. Yep, that’s the stuff right there.
When you’re ready to come up, slightly bend your knees, suck your stomach back, and slowly roll up. Imagine you’re stacking your spine as you come back to stand. When you’re there, roll your shoulders up and back, and you’re set.
2. Standing or Sitting Neck Stretch
Think sitting for too long is the problem? Think again.
“Tech neck” is a new kind of injury we’ve made for ourselves from our increased dependency on our devices. The longer we stare at our screens and crane our necks forward, the more we overwork those muscles.
This leads to shoulder pain, neck spasms, and headaches. It’s great, I know.
Luckily, this next stretch to combat tech neck is pretty simple. And it’s one you can do several times a day without breaking your workflow.
Do the stretch: Standing or sitting, take your hands behind your neck, let your head fall back, and slightly push your neck forward with your hands.
Apply a little bit of pressure as you push forward. With your head hanging in your hands, take a deep breath, and slowly release to roll your head back up. Try not to hold this position for too long. If you need more, just repeat this stretch a few more times.
3. Figure-4 Glute Stretch
Our glute muscles do so much more than give us a perky backside. They work to support our lower back, help improve our posture, and increase our mobility and range of motion in our hips. But if our glutes are tight, overworked, or even underworked, we suffer.
This muscle group’s an important one. Strong glutes are key to avoiding injury or discomfort in your hips, lower back, and even your knees and ankles. If we want to be able to walk, run, lunge, squat, skate, or even sit criss-cross for the rest of our lives, we’ve got to give those glute muscles some extra love.
Do the stretch: Laying on your back, keep one leg down on the floor while you draw the opposite knee towards your chest. Pull it in for a good squeeze, then cross your ankle over the top of your knee.
With your leg bent at a 90 degree angle, clasp your hands behind your hamstrings and gently pull your ankle closer to your body.
You can also do this stretch sitting in your chair. Just cross one ankle over the top of the opposite knee, gently press the lifted knee down, and fold your upper body over the crossed leg.
Before you get back to work…
Give yourself a few minutes to do these three super simple stretches. Maybe try to shoot for twice a day. Your mind and body will thank you in the long run. Plus, your watch will finally leave you alone.