Take a Seat—It’s Time to Stretch

Did you know that sitting puts a lot of stress on the body?

When you’re parked in a seat for an extended period, your hip flexors and hamstrings shorten, along with the muscles in your low back and most of the muscles connected to your hips. And when your muscles are shortened, they tighten making it difficult to stand up again. Additionally, with legs bent for hours on end, it's hard for blood to circulate properly, resulting in low blood flow and nourishment.

Whether seated on a plane, in a car, or behind a desk, the result is the same - tight hips, overstretched upper back, rotated pelvis, a misaligned spine and for many, aching or pain.

Reduce muscle tightness by taking breaks from prolonged sitting. Ideally, get up and walk around every 30 minutes to 2 hours. Do some light, limbering movements and stretch.

If you cannot get out of the seat due to travel restrictions or work requirements, incorporate seated stretching.

7 Seated Stretches to Improve Mobility, Flexibility, and Reduce Pain

 

Ear to Shoulder: Great for anyone who looks at the road or a screen all day. Look straight ahead. Keep shoulders down and body still. Gently lower right ear toward your shoulder. You can assist your head very gently with your hand. Hold 5 seconds. Return head to neutral. Repeat 10x.

Seated Chest Opener: Stretches and opens up the chest and front of the shoulders. Reach and clasp hands behind your back, drawing shoulder blades down your back. 10-30 seconds. Repeat 3x.

woman stretching arm and wrist
woman stretching by lifting dumbbell

Overhead Reach + Lateral Stretch: Lengthens the spine, lifts the low back up and off the pelvis and stretches the shoulders and entire side body.

Arm Across: Stretches the upper back and shoulder region. Sit up tall with back straight and both feet flat on the floor. Take your right arm across your chest. Using your left hand, grasp the back part of the right upper arm (just above the elbow). Slightly pull the right arm across the body. Hold 20-30 seconds. Switch sides. Repeat 3x

woman stretching by twisting dumbbell

Seated Twist: Lengthens the spine and stretches the back. Sit up tall with back straight and both feet flat on the floor. Gently rotate your torso to the right, pulling your belly in as turn. Place your left hand on the outside of your chair or seat to help you rotate. Think of lengthening your spine and getting taller as you twist. Hold for 10 seconds. Repeat 3x. Switch to the other side.

woman stretching by twisting dumbbell
woman stretching by lifting dumbbell

Seated Figure Four: Opens the hips up and stretches the inner and outer thigh and low back. Sit up tall with back straight and both feet flat on the floor. Take the foot of one leg on top of the thigh of the opposite leg, resting your shin or ankle above the knee. Use your hand to gently guide the knee down towards the ground. Hold 5-10 seconds. Release. Repeat on the same side 3x. Switch to the other leg.

woman stretching by twisting dumbbell

Seated Leg Extension: Lengthens the knee joint and pumps blood into the lower leg. Adjust to the front edge of your seat. Sit up tall with back straight and both feet flat on the floor. Extend your right leg straight in front of you as you contract the front of your thigh. Hold for two to three seconds before lowering to the start position. Repeat 5-10x. Switch to the other leg.

 

Sitting and travelling can be a big pain in the neck, but it doesn’t have to be. Plan breaks that fit nicely into your workday or travel plans. If you’re taking a road trip, pre-determine regular stops every two hours. Get out of the car, walk around, and do light stretching for 5-10 minutes.

If travelling by air, stretch in the terminal before taking your seat on the plane. While in the air, get up as often as conditions permit, and if possible, stretch in your seat.

If your line of work requires you to sit at a desk most of the day, arrange your day so you can break up extended periods of sitting with movement. Consider these ideas:

  • Stand to take a phone call.
  • Walk to another person’s office when you need to ask a question rather than call or send an email
  • Take 2 minutes to get up and fill your water bottle
  • Set aside 5 minutes every 2 hours to stretch
  • Walk at lunchtime
  • Pay attention to your posture while working.

Performing these stretches will help improve flexibility and mobility so you can enjoy the journey and have a great time once you get there.

About the Writer

Kelley Rakow, Health and Lifestyle Coach

Information presented by W(h)ealth should not be relied upon to determine diet, make a medical diagnosis, or determine treatment for a medical condition. The information is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional and is not intended as medical advice. Consult a doctor and/or medical professional before making any health changes, especially any changes related to a specific diagnosis or condition.

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