Stretches and Exercises for throughout the day
Whether you are sitting all day, constantly on your feet or doing physical work such as refuse or using lifting equipment, doing regular stretches and exercises can help to prevent and relieve back and joint pain as well as help keep your mind active and energy levels up.
It is also important to remember, in order to keep your back, joints and heart in particular fit and strong, in addition to stretching, it is vital to still do some moderate exercise such as going for a fast paced walk for at least 10 minutes regularly. In addition, make sure you are doing resistance strengthening and stretching sessions a couple of times in the week, even if you are on your feet all day or in a physical role. This together will:
- Help to reduce the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes and other conditions;
- Keep your bones strong;
- Protect your back and joints and keep your muscles healthy;
- Reduce several menopause symptoms for women;
- Help you maintain a healthy weight, which in turn supports your health, back and joints.
Sitting for long periods either at a desk or in the car can impact your physical, physiological and mental wellbeing. Firstly, ensure you have the right set up. If you are desk based, undertake a and discuss the outcomes with your line manager. If you are working from home, also see our Working from home guidance and best practice for more information on setting up correctly. If you are using a vehicle, then make sure you adjust the seat height and back rest just right for you and use aids such as back cushions or wedges where appropriate.
Even if you have set up correctly, it is important to take regular breaks (micro breaks of 2-5 mins) at least every 30 to 60 minutes and stretching out can also help counteract these impacts of sitting for long periods. Here is how:
- Standing when you can (e.g. taking phone calls standing, getting a drink, going to the toilet or just getting up) and stretching at least twice a day can reduce/eliminate aches and pains - particularly in your neck, shoulders, wrists and back, both in the short and long term.
- It can also help reduce the risk of diabetes and cardiovascular heart disease that is increased from sedentary behaviour.
- By breaking regularly, you will also feel less tired/fatigued and be able to concentrate better.
- Constantly staring at a computer for hours without a break will also tire out your eyes, making them feel strained, and potentially leading to headaches/migraines. Following the 20:20:20 rule (every 20 minutes get up and stare for 20 seconds at something 20 feet away) will give your eyes the break that they need.
- Eating your lunch away from your desk or car (or at least not while driving) leads to less snacking in the afternoon and therefore can help you maintain a healthy weight.
- Going to the toilet when you need it rather than holding off can reduce the risk of urinary tract infections and help keep a healthy digestive system.
How often should I stretch?
Try to create a routine where you take breaks and stretch regularly. Set up a reminder in your calendar or phone so that you don’t forget. You could also set this up with your colleagues using Skype or Teams, either watching a video together or taking turns to take a session. 10 minutes is long enough, without taking too much time out of your day. It will also give you more than 10 minutes productivity – taking regular microbreaks is said to increase productivity by 11 - 14 %.
You may feel pretty active when you spend most of your working day on your feet. Although less impact than sitting for long periods, being on your feet all day can still take a toll on your body. Ensuring you follow safe working practices including regular breaks should minimise these impacts. However, also doing stretches and exercises throughout the day will help to prevent / reduce aches and pains in the back, neck and shoulders as well as the legs. Soaking legs and feet in Epsom salts can also really sooth feet when you have been on your feet all day.
You wouldn’t walk onto a rugby pitch and play an 80 minute game without warming up – so why do we turn up to a physical role and just start lifting, digging etc. without preparing our bodies?
Warming up before doing physical work can:
- Help to prevent injury
- Prepares the body for physical work making it more responsive and supple
- Prepares the mind to indicate work is starting – less likely to have accidents
It does this through:
- Creating an increase in body temperature
- Creating an increase in muscle elasticity (stretching ability of the muscle) – increasing your range of movement
- Specific warms ups for the activity you do will prepare your body for that movement (specificity)
- Stimulating the Cardiorespiratory (heart and lungs) and Central Nervous Systems (CNS)
- Improving musclar coordination - Warmer muscles are better coordinated than cooler muscles.
- Improving reaction time due to the stimulation of the CNS
- When warm energy can be produced at a faster rate.
- Lubricating joints
It is also important to take several micro stretch breaks throughout the day and do stretches at the end. This will help lengthen out the contracted muscles that have been used during the day. This helps to reduce imbalances in the body which are often linked to injuries e.g. tight back muscles are much more susceptible to injury than healthy back muscles.
Just a 5-10 minute warm up each day before starting anything and stretching throughout and at the end of the day could therefore:
- Relieve stiffness / aches and pains
- Reduce risk of injuries
- Reduce risk of accidents
- Help you focus on your day
- Protect joints
- Slow down ageing / impacts of physical work long term
- Reduce pain and issues
It is also important to remember that even though you are doing a physical role, in order to keep your back and joints in particular fit and strong, it is vital to still do some strengthing and stretching sessions a couple of times in the week. This will further enhance the benefits above as well as help to alleviate, slow down or even reverse issues you may already have. Also consult with your GP / Physio before taking up new exercise where you have pre-existing conditions to ensure they are right for you. Maintaining a healthy weight will further support your back and joints.
Soaking in a bath of Epsom salts can also really sooth aches and pains from being active all day.
Page updated: 08/12/2020 12:40:52