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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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January 28 2019

13 Functional Exercises You Can Do At Work

By PaleoHacks
16 Comments

Good morning, folks. After a awesome week (and weekend) taking over the Whole30® Recipes Instagram (you can still check out all the great videos, tips and recipes I shared here), my team and I are taking a breather. Look for a success story later in the week. In the meantime, we have some practical ideas for your Monday morning. We’re shaking things up with a movement guide you can put into action at work today. Thanks to Jessica Gouthro of PaleoHacks for these awesome suggestions, and let us know which you’ll be adding to your routine. 

Working at your desk all day doesn’t have to mean poor posture and an achy body. Whether you sit or stand at work, remaining sedentary for hours takes its toll on the body. After just a few hours, your body will begin to stiffen, your lower back will ache, and you’ll grow sluggish. (For a printable PDF version with photos, click here.)

But you can free yourself from common aches and pains associated with desk work in just a few minutes with these easy stretches to release the lower back and hips. You don’t have to do all 13 of these stretches at once. Instead, use this list as a guide and choose two or three stretches you think your body needs. Perhaps you’re looking for a nice stretch through your shoulders, or maybe you could really benefit from moves that help open up your hips. Every little bit of movement adds up when you’re sitting for long periods of time, and doing just one of these stretches every day will help you look and feel better, and avoid pain.

Try each of these 13 functional workspace stretches to relieve aches and pains and instantly improve your posture.

1) Standing Overhead Reach | 5 Breaths, 3x

Stand up from your chair with your feet about hip-width apart and toes pointed forward.

Clasp your fingers together and turn your palms facing up toward the ceiling.

Reach your clasped hands overhead, and press your palms upward while keeping your shoulders and core engaged.

Hold for five deep breaths and enjoy the stretch. Release. Repeat three times.

2) Butterfly Elbows | 4 Reps

Sit tall in your chair and place your fingertips gently behind your ears. Do not interlock fingers or apply any pressure to your neck.

Lift your chest and ribs up as you stretch your elbows back to feel a lengthening across your chest. Breathe in deep to fill your lungs. On the exhale, round your back, drop your chin and bring your elbows to meet in front of you. Gently press your elbows forward to feel a stretch across your upper back and shoulder blades.

Inhale to return to the starting position. Continue alternating one movement per breath until you have completed four reps.

3) Chair Chest Opener | 5 Breaths, 2x

Scoot towards the front of your chair, and sit on the very edge. Reach your hands back with thumbs pointing down and grasp onto the sides of your chair.

Lift your chest and roll your shoulders back and down. Elongate your neck by imagining you can press into the ceiling with the top of your head.

Lean deeper into the stretch to feel the opening across your chest.

Take five deep breaths, then rest. Repeat a second time.

4) Standing Chair Lat Stretch | 5 Breaths, 2x

Stand facing your chair, about three feet away.

Keep a slight bend in your knees, then hinge at your hips and reach your arms long to grasp onto the back of the chair. Make sure your arms are straight.

Lengthen your shoulders and flatten your lower back, forming a straight line from hands to hips. Align your head in between your arms and take five deep breaths.

Release, then repeat a second set.

5) Standing Chair Lat Twist | 3 Reps Per Side

In the same position as the stretch above, reach your right hand down to your left foot to create a twist in your upper body.

Hold for two breaths, then return to the starting position with both hands on the chair and switch to twist in the other direction. Maintain a flat lower back and slightly bent knees the whole time.

Repeat three times per side.

6) Mirrored Chair Pose | 3 Reps

Stand facing your chair with your feet together.

Hinge at the hips to squat down, aiming to mimic the height of the chair with the top of your thighs.

Keep your spine straight. Reach your arms up overhead with palms facing each other.

Hold for five full breaths, then release.

Repeat three times.

7) Seated Figure 4 Hip Stretch | 3 Breaths, 2x Per Side

Sit on your chair with both feet flat on the ground.

Lift your right leg and place your ankle across your left knee. Keep your right foot flexed.

Sit up nice and tall, then lean slightly forward as you gently press down on your right knee—just enough to feel a stretch in the hips.

Hold for three breaths, then release and switch sides.

Repeat two times per side.

8) Seated Spinal Twist | 2 Breaths, 3x Per Side

Sit on your chair with both feet flat on the ground.

Reach your left hand to your right knee and your right hand to the back edge of the chair.

Press gently with both hands as you look over your shoulder and rotate your torso. Lean slightly forward to allow more space for the twist.

Take two deep breaths, then switch to the other side.

Repeat three times per side.

9) Bound Neck Stretch | 2 Breaths, 3x Per Side

Sit up tall in your chair and reach your right arm straight down by your side.

Reach your left hand behind your back to clasp your right wrist, then tilt your neck to the right.

To increase the stretch, gently press your arm away from your torso.

Hold for two deep breaths, then release and switch to do the other side.

Repeat three times per side.

10) Alternating Fingers Wrist Stretch | 2 Breaths, 3x Per Side

Sit up tall in your chair. Reach your right arm straight out in front of you with fingers pointing down towards the ground.

Use your left hand to gently pull on the back of your right hand to stretch the top of your wrist. Hold for two breaths.

Flip your right hand up so that your palm is facing out, and pull back with your left hand to stretch the bottom of your wrist. Hold for two breaths.

Alternate between stretching the top and bottom of your right wrist three times, then switch to the other side.

11) Hamstring Stretch | 3 Breaths, 2x Per Side

Stand up and face your chair. Step back about two feet.

Raise your right foot and place the heel on the middle of the chair with your foot flexed.

Place your hands on your hips and hinge forward, until you feel a stretch through your hamstring. Keep a slight bend in both knees to maintain muscular engagement.

Take three deep breaths, then switch to the left leg.

Repeat two times per side.

12) Chair Pigeon Pose | 3 Breaths, 2x Per Side

Stand facing your chair.

Place your right shin across the front of the chair, with your knee on the chair and foot off the edge. Keep your foot flexed.

Grasp onto the edges of the chair with both hands and step your other leg back to straighten out the knee and hip. You can control the depth of this hip stretch by bending or straightening your elbows.

Take three deep breaths, then switch to the other leg.

Repeat two times per side.

13) Single Leg Toe Pull | 2 Breaths, 3x Per Side

Stand facing your chair. Hinge forward at the hips and place your hands on the chair.

Grab your right toes with your right hand. Keep your left hand on the chair and a microbend in your left leg.

Pull slightly upward on your right toes until you feel a stretch in your calf and hamstring. Make sure to keep your hips square and your lower back as flat as possible.

Hold for two breaths, then switch sides.

Complete three sets per side.

Thanks again to Jessica Gouthro of Paleohacks. Questions or other ideas for staying relaxed and limber at work? Shoot me a line in the comments below. Have a great week, everyone. 

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16 thoughts on “13 Functional Exercises You Can Do At Work”

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  1. Some of these might be a bit difficult while wearing a skirt. Just sayin’.

    1. You could do almost all of these exercises with a skirt on, unless it’s a skin-tight pencil skirt or a mini-skirt — and in that case you’ll have to make your choice between function and fashion.

  2. But… in my office, I don’t use a chair, but a saddle-chair!

  3. Really love these! Great share! Exercise always plays an important role in our life. It helps to keep our body in a good healthy condition.

  4. These are awesome and so in alignment with get up and move at least every 25 minutes. These are great. Thank you. I do planks and squats and a couple of arm thingy bobs but what a great list.

  5. Thanks, I’m retired but I occasionally sit too, lol.
    These will work for anyone, thanks again!

  6. Thank you! I work at a desk all day, and I know that desk is my enemy… These will be helpful defenses in my ongoing battle for life past my desk job!!

  7. Don’t know why you all have a print function when it’s useless. It prints out all encrypted.

  8. Having the pictures print out, whether with the exercises or recipes would be handy too. Can you all add that?