It’s noon and you haven’t left your chair all day – cue the afternoon slump. I’ve been there. We’ve all been there. In fact, I may be there right now.
That’s about the time I go on the hunt for the office candy dish for the pick-me-up that I think I need. But, you know what? The candy always leaves me sugar crashing, wanting more. Better solution – a mid-day stretch session.
Stretching is an amazing way to increase your energy, negate those not-so-awesome effects of sitting all day, and reduce your stress. Here are 10 quick and easy stretches you can do to improve cognitive ability and increase your energy, all while decreasing your stress.
- Runners Lunge Stand with your feet together. As you perform a forward lunge (with your knee at a 90 degree angle), place your hands on either side of your front foot. After five counts, switch sides. For added balance, you can place both hands on your front bent knee instead.
- Wall Calf Stretch Ladies, if you wear high heels, this one is amazing – take off the heels and stretch out the calves at least once a day! Stand facing a wall from several feet away. Stagger your stance, placing one foot forward. Lean forward and rest your hands on the wall, keeping your heel, hip and head in a straight line and attempt to keep your heel on the ground. Hold for 10-20 seconds and then switch sides.
- Toe Touches Aside from major injuries, not being able to touch your toes is usually a result of poor flexibility in either your hamstrings or lower back, or a combination of the two. The best way to increase your flexibility to the extent of enabling you to touch your toes is to stretch your hamstrings regularly. Hamstring stretches are not only simple and easy, they also require no equipment and can be performed anywhere. Be gentle with your back and hamstrings when attempting this stretch for the first time each day, I often start with my knees bent and work into a straight legged position.
- Downward-Facing Dog The most basic and widely-known yoga pose is downward-facing dog. Even if you’ve never attended a yoga class, you most likely have heard of this one. The pose resembles that of an upside down letter V. Look at your hands–they should be shoulder-width apart. There should be equal space between each of your fingers and in general, your middle finger will point straight ahead. Your feet are hips-width apart and they are to remain parallel to each other, meaning your heel is directly behind your second toe. From there you will look at your lower leg or shin area. Imagine pushing the floor away and engaging the shoulders and the upper body, elongating, not sinking your neck into the shoulders and upper back. From a side view you will see a nice V with no rounding or arching in the back. Beginners and those with tight hamstrings can start with bent knees.
- Side Stretch Stand tall and hold on to a sturdy object with your left hand. Brace your core. Keeping your right knee straight, swing your right leg forward as high as you comfortably can. Swing your right leg backward as far as you can. That’s one rep. Swing back and forth continuously. Now, switch legs!
- Leg Swings Stand tall and hold on to a sturdy object with your left hand. Brace your core. Keeping your right knee straight, swing your right leg forward as high as you comfortably can. Swing your right leg backward as far as you can. That’s one rep. Swing back and forth continuously. Now, switch legs!
- Wrist Stretch You may not even realize how tight your forearms and wrists can get from typing all day until you stretch them out. This simple move helps stretch those muscles in the forearms and wrists. While seated, extend your right arm forward at shoulder height. Keeping your elbow straight, grasp your right hand with your left, and slowly bend the wrist backward until you feel a stretch along the bottom of your forearm. Hold for 15 seconds. Then bend wrist downward until a stretch is felt on the top of the arm, and hold for 15 seconds. Switch arms and repeat. Repeat four times for each hand.
- Side Bend Neck Stretches So many of us hold tension in our neck and shoulders from hunching over our computer each day. This stretch helps release that tension. Begin sitting tall with your back and neck straight, your shoulders should be back slightly. Gently bend your neck to one side until you feel a mild stretch – pain-free (be gentle!). Make sure your neck does not bend forwards during the movement. Repeat 5 times on each side.
- Seated Hip Stretch The lower body also gets tight from sitting too much, especially the front of the hips. When you sit, the glutes stretch while the hip flexors get tighter. Try this one out to help relieve that tightness. While seated, cross the right ankle over the left knee and sit up tall. Gently lean forward, keeping the back straight and reaching out with the torso until you feel a stretch in your right glute and hip. If you want a deeper stretch, you can also press down on the right knee to deepen the stretch. Hold for 10-30 seconds and repeat on the other leg.
- Quad Stretch Stand and touch wall or stationary object for balance if needed. Grasp top ankle or forefoot behind. Pull ankle or forefoot to rear end. Be sure to keep your knee and ankle in line together (your ankle should not splay out from behind you). Straighten hip by moving knee backward. Hold stretch for 5 seconds 4 times. Repeat with opposite side.
Make these part of your daily afternoon routine. Pick 3 to 5 and do them daily – it definitely tops a trip to the candy jar (okay, maybe not, but it’s worth a shot)!