BlogWorkplace Safety

Workplace Safety Tips – Stretching

Today’s post is a the first of a series of posts that will be focusing on occupational health and safety. There are some relatively simple workplace safety tips that can help us desk jockeys live healthier, happier, and more productive lives. A 2010 study published in The American Journal of Epidemology found that men who sat longer than 6 hours per day increased their all-cause death rate by 20%, and women who sat longer than 6 hours a day increased their all-cause death rate by 40%. Another study showed that sedentary men increase their risk of developing cardiovascular disease by up to 64%!

Prior to attending college I spent over 6 years in various manufacturing positions, building everything from heat exchangers for cell phone towers, to heart catheters.

The two BIG things that I learned during my time in manufacturing are:

  1. The value of batching and its ability to make processes more efficient
  2. The importance of taking multiple stretch breaks throughout the workday

The office environment is much like the manufacturing environment in that it consists of sitting in a chair for extended periods of time, and performing repetitive movements. One of the best workplace safety tips that any desk jockey can follow in order to prevent everything from injuries to everyday aches and pains is to make a habit of stretching throughout the day.Workplace-Safety-Tips-Stretching Post

Taking the time for short stretch breaks can also lead to increased mental energy and focus, and a reduction in negative feelings like excitability, anxiety, aggressiveness, and of course sleepiness. All of these positive effects can promote a more productive workday, even though we’re taking a few moments away from our daily tasks.

Fit Desk Jockey Rule#1: Take a moment to stand up every 30 minutes! Relax, recharge, refocus.

Need something more? Below are 10 simple stretches designed to break the monotony of assembly line and office work alike, and get you back on the path of health, wealth, and happiness.

The Top 10 Workplace Stretches

  1. Neck Stretch – Excellent for desk jockeys who spend too much time looking at computer screens (don’t we all?), especially screens that aren’t at the proper height.
    • Extension – extend neck backwards like you’re looking up to the ceiling
    • Flexion – bend your head forward like your looking down to the floor, tucking your chin to your chest
    • Be careful not to over-stretch (stretch too far). Stop when you feel a comfortable stretch
    • Hold for 5-10 seconds and repeat 3 times each way
  2. Finger Stretches – Keyboards, ten keys, and computer mouses can put your hands and wrists in some unnatural positions for extended periods of time. This stretch is designed to help relax the muscles used in such tasks, and helps prevent hand and wrist soreness and fatigue.
    • Separate and stretch your fingers
    • Flex your fingers, bending them at the knuckles (thing eagle claw)
    • Do 10, rest, repeat 3 times
  3. Wrist Stretches – Wrist stretches go hand-in-hand with the finger stretches above to help us desk jockeys recover break from pounding the keyboard on a daily basis.
    • Extensor stretch (palm down)
    • Flexor Stretch (palm up)
    • Hold for 5-10 seconds and repeat 3 times each way
  4.  Arm Circles– Arm circles are a great exercise for relaxing the muscles of the arms and shoulders, and are perfectly suited for releasing the tension that builds in the upper body from siting for extended periods of time.
    • Clockwise and
    • Counterclockwise
    • Do each way for 10 seconds, 3 times
  5. Shoulder Stretches– Most of us don’t have desks that are truly at the proper height, so shoulder pain and fatigue is relatively common.
    • Stretch one arm across your body and use your other arm to apply mild pressure between your elbow and shoulder
    • Switch & repeat for a total of 3 times for each side
  6. Triceps Stretch
    • Place your left arm behind your head and apply light pressure with your right hand on your left elbow
    • Switch & repeat for a total of 3 times for each side
  7. Shoulder Shrug Drops – Shoulder shrug drops are a great way to release tension, especially the kind that can build up from spending the majority of your day with your forearms resting on a desk. They’re also a wonderful relaxation technique that I learned and started using after suffering a workplace injury back when I was in my late teens.
    • Start with your arms hanging straight at your sides
    • Slowly raise the tops of your shoulders toward your ears until you feel tension
    • Hold for 3 to 5 seconds
    • Release and let your shoulders fall to the relaxed position
    • Do 5-10, rest, repeat 3 times
  8. Seated Lower Rotational Stretch – As a common cause of job-related disability, back pain is a leading contributor to work absences,  leading Americans spend at least $50 BILLION dollars every year combating back pain. Stretching your back regularly can help you maintain flexibility, strengthen your muscles, and reduce your risk of injury.
    • Stretches the muscles of the lower back
    • Hold 5-10 seconds
    • Repeat for a total of 3 times for each side
  9. Standing Toe Touches
    • Standing Toe Touches are an excellent way to stretch out your hamstrings after a period of sitting.
    • I find this exercise particularly beneficial on Mondays, since I typically do my heavy leg training days on Saturday and my DOMS generally peaks about 48 hours after my training session.
    • While seated – Lean forward and bend your upper body to the floor, touching your hands to your toes or the floor
    • Hold for 5-10 seconds
    • Rest, repeat for a total of 3
  10. Lower Back stretch – This stretch provides wonderful relief, especially if you’re like me and spend hours a day hunched over a desk looking like Quasimodo rocking a tie.
    • Standing – with your feet about shoulder width apart, place your hands in the lumbar area of your back and stretch back like you’re looking at the ceiling
    • Hold for 5-10 seconds
    • Rest, repeat for a total of 3

Option 1:  Perform each stretch 3 times for at least 5-10 seconds each, and repeat at least twice per day.

Option 2:  Got an ache or pain from too much sitting? Pick a stretch from the above 10 that targets the body part that’s paining you.

There are no limits to what some desk jockeys will do to make their sedentary lifestyles more active, everything from adopting a standing work station (coming soon!), to work stations that have a built-in bike or treadmill. Companies have started to see the benefit of protecting and promoting the health of their employees, both as a cost savings measure, as well in response to more employees requesting such changes. It all starts with us being willing to change our current behavior, things like being willing to stop, stand up, recharge and refocus.

How do you do it?

What activities and stretches do you use to help breakup your work day? Feel free to share them in the comments section below, so that your fellow desk jockeys (myself included) can reap the benefits of your wisdom.

Health, Wealth, and Happiness,


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