Making stretching part of your routine can do a lot of great things for your overall health, from increasing your flexibility to improving your balance and coordination. But, finding a time to sneak in a quick stretch or exercise can be tough when you have a busy schedule.
A time I like to recommend for busy people is their lunch break, especially for those who work at an office. Instead of eating a heavy meal and just waiting for your break to be over, you can maximize your lunch break by trying these 10 stretches and exercises. That way, you can go back to work energized and finish the day strong.
Stretches To Loosen You Up Over Lunch
Whether you want to exercise during lunch or not, stretches are always a good idea. Desk work, or any job that requires you to make repetitive motions, can leave you feeling stiff and tired by the time you reach your lunch break. Part of that tiredness can be due to a lack of motivation as well as the repetitiveness of most desk jobs.
Instead of fighting exhaustion and tight muscles for the rest of the afternoon, here are some good stretches to help you make it through your workday more comfortably.
1. Toe Touch
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and take a deep breath. As you exhale, slowly reach your fingers to your toes. Allow your body to go as far as you comfortably can, without pushing too far. As you practice, you should be able to reach farther until you can touch your toes easily.
This stretch allows your spine to lengthen while loosening the muscles and tendons in your legs, which can become cramped from sitting or standing too much.
2. Standing Chest Stretch
With one arm perpendicular to your body and braced against a wall, lean into the chest stretch. You should only feel the stretching tension but no pain.
As desk workers tend to have rounded shoulders and poor posture as they work on their computers, it can create a lot of back pain. Instead of trying to fight your strained back, you can loosen the muscle fibers in your chest to help release the tension in your back.
3. Triceps Stretch
Lift your arm and reach, palm toward your back, until your fingertips are reaching between your shoulder blades. You can use your other hand to help gently push your elbow down for a deeper stretch. Alternate between arms to gain an even stretch.
This stretch will also help open up your pectorals (chest) as well as helping to loosen up your triceps.
4. Sit and Stretch
If you can find a clean, carpeted spot at work, sit on the ground and stretch your right leg straight ahead of you, and reach with your right arm. The goal is to reach your toes with your fingers, but if you can’t, just breathe into the stretch. Alternate legs and arms to enjoy an even stretch.
By doing this stretch, you can enjoy looser muscles in your hamstrings, quadriceps, as well as easing lower back pain and loosening your arms.
5. Standing Quad Stretch
Standing on one leg while raising the opposite leg, heel toward your glutes, grab your foot and draw it toward you. Hold this stretch before switching to the other leg. Also, you can brace yourself on a table or chair to help with balance.
With this stretch, you can stretch out your quadriceps and release some of the tension that gathers at the knee.
Easy Exercises To Help The Blood Flow Again
Sedentary desk work does more than just make you wish for a more comfortable seat cushion. Recently, researchers have found that sitting stationary for uninterrupted periods of time can reduce the blow flow to your brain. However, you can fix this with short walking breaks and taking time to do some exercises at lunch to help your blood start moving again.
Similar to a pushup position but with your forearms braced on the floor, hold your body in the plank position for at least 30 seconds at a time. Do your best to make sure your body makes a straight line, with no dips on your back or knees.
This exercise is an overall strengthening move, though it specifically helps with upper body and core strength.
2. Standing Oblique Crunch
With your feet hip-width apart and your hands behind your head, raise your right knee to your right elbow while bending at the waist. Alternate from the right side to the left side to work your sides evenly.
With this exercise, you can carve out a more defined waist as the muscles work. Also, as you lift your legs to complete the movement, you can help encourage better blood flow in your legs.
3. Body Weight Squat
Standing with your feet shoulder-width apart, bend your knees to lower yourself into a sitting position. Some people go further than a 90-degree sitting position squat, but you should only go as far as you feel comfortable. You can raise your arms at the same time to assist with balance.
By strengthening your glutes and calves with this move, you can also enjoy a release of tension which can build up as you sit at your desk.
4. Wind Mill
With your feet a little further than shoulder-width apart and your arms fully extended to either side of your body, bend at the waist and reach for your right foot with your left hand. Come completely back up, then reach for your left foot with your right hand.
Not only can you strengthen your core with this exercise, but you can also help ease lower back tension while engaging your arms in a different motion than they are normally in at a desk.
5. Knee Lift
Standing with your feet hip-width apart, raise one knee up to 90-degrees while bringing the opposite arm up. Alternate sides to balance the exercise.
This exercise can help encourage your heart rate to go up and lead to increased blood flow, yet not enough that you will become sweaty during lunch.
By adding these stretches and exercises to your lunch break, you can help improve your health and wellness without taking up a bunch of time.