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How to Stretch (in Your Sweats): 12 Desk Stretches

We all know the drill—you’re halfway through your workday when your neck stiffens up and your back starts to ache. Working from home has been an adjustment for everyone but without the regular trips to the watercooler and steps to the conference room, it’s inevitable for your body to feel strained. 

Whether you’ve always been a remote worker or you're newly joining the 1 in 4 Americans who work from home due to the pandemic, adapting to a WFH lifestyle can take time and practice. Just like optimizing a new morning routine, incorporating a few desk stretches or “deskercises” can help you feel invigorated and extend productivity all the way from 9 to 5.  

How to Avoid “Tech Neck” With Deskercise

While you might be sporting your comfiest get-up while working from home, a loungewear outfit won’t keep you from being prone to workplace injuries. Limiting mobility at your desk can increase your chances of getting injuries like tendonitis, tennis elbow and tech neck

Research shows that repetitive motion, poor posture, and staying in the same position (as we do at our desks) can cause injuries or disorders of the muscles. Stretching at your desk can help keep your muscles from feeling sore and tight as it increases blood flow and prevents fatigue and discomfort. 

Deskersize or exercise that can be performed at your desk can also help reduce stress and increase energy, helping you not only get through but conquer your day. 

Whether you’re working from home, teaching or taking classes at home, or simply spending more time online to keep up with the digital age, we’ve sourced various desk stretches you can do from the comfort of your home office or workspace. From novice level to full-yogi, these stretches are geared towards helping you thrive in your work and stay motivated all day long. 

Desk Stretches for Work From Homers 

Working from home has its perks—less commute time, more time with loved ones, and of course a more relaxed attire—but for many, it can be easy to feel glued to your desk with little flexibility for breaks. It’s okay to prioritize your health and schedule time for stretching, drinking water, and not looking at screens. 

Try the following desk stretches on your next break. Note that these stretches are merely recommendations. If you feel pain, stop and contact a medical professional.

1. Shoulder + Neck Stretch

Illustration of a women practicing desk stretches by sitting on her chair and rolling her shoulders upwards

When working from home, your neck and shoulders tend to stay in the same position as you look at your screen. By doing a few neck and shoulder stretches you can loosen the tension between where your neck and shoulder meet and increase mobility. 

Shoulder Shrugs

  • Raise both shoulders at once up toward the ears. 
  • Drop them and repeat 10 times each direction.

Neck Rolls 

  • Drop your head down in front of you and slowly move it counterclockwise slowly.
  • Once your neck is where you started, roll it the other way.
  • Repeat 10 times each direction. 

Tip: Move through this movement slowly, being mindful of any tension that may be present in your muscles, especially the trapezius, which is located on top of your shoulders. 

2. Reach Up Stretch

Illustration of a women practicing desk stretches by sitting on her chair and reaching her arms up above her head

Stretch your back at your desk to give your posture a break. 

  • Interlock both hands above your head, palms facing the ceiling. 
  • Sit straight up, then push your palms upward and elongate your spine. 
  • You should feel a nice stretch in your back. 
  • Make sure to keep your shoulders loose and relaxed. 
  • Hold for 10 seconds, repeat 5 times.

Tip: If you don’t have a chair you can do the same stretch by standing up, reaching your hands up and clasping your hands. 

3. Wrist Stretch

Illustration of a women practicing desk stretches by sitting on her chair and pressing her palms together

Give those typing hands a break with this wrist stretch. 

  • Press your palms together in front of your chest and hold for 15 seconds. 
  • Push the backs of your hands together for a reverse stretch and hold for another 15 seconds. 
  • Repeat 5 times.

Tip: Breathe during each 15-second interval to center yourself. 

4. Hamstring Chair Stretch

Illustration of a women practicing desk stretches by sitting on her chair and leaning forward

Legs can become tight by sitting all day. Try the following stretch to loosen up your hamstrings. 

  • While sitting in a chair, hold onto the side of your chair and straighten your legs. 
  • When ready, fold your body towards your toes. 
  • Make sure to keep your back straight. Hold for 30 seconds, repeat 3-5 times.

Tip: To ensure your safety during this stretch, use a chair without wheels.

Deskersizes for Virtual Learners and Educators

We applaud all the teachers, students and parents who have made the switch to virtual learning. To help you stretch throughout the school day, we’ve sourced the following deskercises to do at home. . 

5. Half Moon

Illustration of a student practicing desk stretches by sitting on his chair and leaning his body to the right

Sitting still has never been easy especially with more distractions at home. Use the following stretch to get the wiggles out and re-focus for learning. 

  • Raise both arms to the ceiling, keeping shoulders down. 
  • Grasp your right wrist with your left hand. 
  • Lean to the left, feeling the ribs open on the right side, being sure to keep your chest facing the front. 
  • Hold the stretch for 3 seconds. Repeat on the other side.
  • Repeat 3-5 times.

Tip: Close your eyes and breathe for three seconds on each side.

6. Ragdoll 

Illustration of a student practicing desk stretches by sitting on his chair leaning over to touch the floor

Ragdoll is the perfect move for stretching out your entire body from your chair. 

  • Start by sitting at the very front edge of your chair. 
  • Open your knees wide, putting your feet flat on the floor. 
  • Fold forward into the space between the legs. 
  • Let go of your head shaking it ‘yes’ and ‘no’. Keep this position for 3 seconds. 
  • When ready, roll up very slowly.

Tip: Keep a flat back when leaning over to avoid overextending.

7. Criss Cross Applesauce

Illustration of a student practicing desk stretches by sitting on his chair cross legged

Give your legs and lower back a break by stretching them out on your chair. 

  • Sit cross-legged on your chair and rest your palms on your knees. 
  • Close your eyes and sit up straight.
  • Breathe for 10 seconds.

Tip: If your chair doesn’t allow room for your knees, opt for the floor. 

8. Tummy Twist  

Illustration of a student practicing desk stretches by sitting on his chair twisting

For distance learners, sitting for long hours facing a screen might be new territory. Use this stretch to twist and relax your back. 

  • Sit upright in your chair. 
  • Make sure that your spine is straight and that your feet are flat on the ground. 
  • Twist your upper body to the right. 
  • Take your left hand to your right knee and your right hand back behind the chair. 
  • Repeat on the other side.

Tip: Allow your neck and gaze to follow your body as it twists. 

Desk Stretches for Seniors 

36 to 70% of older adults report suffering from back pain so we compiled a few desk stretches geared at helping prevent and treat back pain at home. 

Make sure to use a chair without wheels to do these stretches. The best chair will have a straight back and will be stable. A sturdy kitchen chair is a good option.

9. Seated Cat-Cow 

Illustration of a senior practicing desk stretches by sitting on his chair gazing upward

Many older adults feel pain in their lower back. As we age, spinal degeneration and osteoarthritis become more common. Doing the seated Cat-Cow, helps stretch the lower back muscles as well as simultaneously working the core muscles. 

  • Plant your feet firmly on the floor. Keep knees at a 90-degree angle and place your hands on your knees.
  • Inhale, and as you exhale, press into your hands and arch your back using your entire spine.
  • As you inhale again, roll your shoulders forward and pull your belly button toward your spine, dropping your chin toward your chest and pushing towards your knees with your hands. 
  • During your next exhale, reverse the motion, pulling your chest up and arching your spine, pressing down into your legs, instead of toward your knees. 
  • Repeat this slowly, on your breath, 3 to 5 times.

Tip: Let your breath guide your movements. 

10. Seated Backbend 

Illustration of a senior practicing desk stretches by sitting on his chair bending backwards

As we age, our upper and mid back begin to curve forward. The gently Seated Backbend stretches your spinal extensors, anterior neck muscles, and pectorals.

  • Start in a seated position with your feet flat on the floor. 
  • Move your hands to your lower back and wrap your thumbs around your hips. 
  • Press your hands firmly into your lower back. 
  • As you exhale, gently arch your spine, leading with your head. Lead with your cervical spine, tilting your chin up.
  • Hold for 5 full, deep breaths. 
  • Gently and slowly come back to the neutral starting position, and repeat 3 to 5 times.

Tip: Don’t let your head drop too much. 

11. Reach Back

Illustration of a senior practicing desk stretches by sitting on his chair reaching backwards

This next stretch helps with range of motion in your shoulders as well as stretching your shoulders and chest. When we sit hunched forward it creates tension in our chests from pulling those muscles in. The Reach Back stretch opens the chest up and improves shoulder extension.

  • Start with your feet firmly on the ground. 
  • Inhale deeply, and as you exhale, reach behind you and interlace your hands. 
  • Inhale deeply again, and sit up taller. 
  • Roll your shoulders up and back, moving your shoulder blades down your back. As you exhale, gently straighten your arms, if your hands are clasped. 
  • After 3 deep breaths, release your clasp and return to neutral. 
  • Repeat this 3 times.

Tip: If you cannot interlace your hands, grab opposite wrists or elbows.

12. Shoulder Circles

Illustration of a senior practicing desk stretches by sitting on his chair doing shoulder circles

Shoulder circles is a great deskercise as the rotations warm up your shoulder muscles and reduce the risk of strain.

  • Start with your feet firmly on the ground.
  • Place your fingertips on your shoulders. 
  • Circle your shoulders forward for 15 repetitions. 
  • Reverse the movement, and circle backward another 15 repetitions. 

Tip: Go slowly face forward while you move your arms. 

Exercise is crucial for leading an active, healthy, happy life so it only makes sense to incorporate it into your work from home routine! We hope our desk stretches will encourage you to cultivate your physical health during this turbulent time and prioritize self-care. For more inspiration on how to level-up your work from home routine, explore our WFH loungewear collection that’s sure to spice up your lifestyle.