Pop quiz! What’s one occupational hazard that remote workers and their office-bound counterparts have in common?
Eye strain? Carpal tunnel syndrome? Close, but it’s actually something more mundane, yet has been likened to smoking in terms of its health risks: prolonged sitting.
Thanks to evolution, the human body simply wasn’t designed to be sitting for long periods of time, but due to industrialization and the emergence of technology, most workers can now be found toiling away in front of screens at their desks rather than standing by an assembly line at the factory. That’s not to say that working conditions aren’t better (I’ll take my desk in an airconditioned office over a hot metal forge any day, thanks), but they aren’t necessarily the healthiest either.
Us remote workers are no different. Unless you make exercise videos for a living, you’re probably reading this while taking a break from optimizing a brand’s SEO, drafting email announcements, or laying out some graphic content on your desk….while seated. And after work, you’ll probably veg out to some Netflix or cable on the couch….while seated.
But hey, I’m not judging. My typical day generally turns out like that too, but I’ve also found that getting up to stretch every hour helps offset the load from prolonged sitting just a bit.
Here are some that you can try even without getting up from your chair:
Interlace your fingers behind you and place your arms on the top of your chair’s backrest. Drop your chin to your chest, and extend your arms backwards while holding this position for 8 to 10 deep breaths. Repeat a few more times if desired.
Lift one leg up and grab onto your knee, pulling that leg as close to your chest as possible. Hold for ten seconds, and then slowly return your leg to its previous position. Repeat with your other leg.
Sit sideways so that your shoulders and back are perpendicular to the back of the chair. Keep your back straight, both feet on the ground, and your hands on the back of your chair.
Use your arms to twist your upper body towards the back of the chair, and hold that position for about 8 to 10 deep breaths. Switch the side of the chair you’re sitting on, and repeat.
Sit up straight with your feet on the floor and your palms on top of your knees. Arch your back, look up, and relax your shoulders as you inhale. Round your spine, pull your shoulders toward each other at the front of the body, and then drop your head towards your chest as you exhale. Repeat for about 8-10 deep breaths.
While keeping your back upright, lift your arm in a slight arc over your head and reach towards the opposite side. Hold for 3 deep breaths, and then repeat with the other arm.
Interlock both hands together, and then stretch upwards, palms facing the ceiling, as though you were trying to reach the sky. Be sure to keep your back and your arms straight, and hold for 5 deep breaths.
With your back straight and your feet on the floor, bring your chin towards your chest, and then roll your right ear over to the right shoulder. Place your left hand on top of your right shoulder and place your right hand just above your left ear.
Gently apply pressure with the hand on your head, and then take approximately 8-10 deep breaths throughout the stretch. Slowly uncoil yourself into your starting position, and then do the same for the other side.
Grab your right shoulder with your left arm. With your right hand, grab your elbow and gently pull it towards your right shoulder. Repeat with your other arm.
Keep your legs straight, and then bend over to try and touch your toes. Hold this position for about 5 deep breaths, and repeat as needed.
Lean your head down, and then slowly rotate your neck from left to right. Hold for a breath, and then slowly rotate in the opposite direction.
While we telecommuters can’t exactly avoid sitting at our desks for long and continuous periods, we do have one considerable advantage: no one (except perhaps your dog) can or will see you contorting yourself into any of the weird positions listed above, should you feel the need for a good, long stretch.
Now, let’s put all that freedom and privacy to good use, shall we?