Stretching improves muscle elasticity and leads to increased muscle control, flexibility and range of motion. Many stretch before and after a workout, upon waking in the morning or even after a road trip, but what about workplace stretching?

Ergonomically sound tools and habits are key to an efficient working environment. One of those primary habits is regular stretching. Stretching is beneficial to the overall health of the body and plays a role in reducing musculoskeletal disorders among employees. MSD’s account for more than 600,000 injuries and illnesses and 34 percent of all workdays lost.

Stretching enhances ergonomic improvement plans, team member training and prevention processes. When muscles are stretched blood supply increases, soft tissue structures realign and muscle coordination strengthens.

It is recommended to take frequent, short breaks to stretch while at the office. Consider taking the time to practice relaxation while on stretch breaks as well. Take a step back between tasks to stretch out tense muscles, relax and take a few deep breaths. Deep breaths supplement oxygen to the blood, which aids in relaxing muscles and maintaining mental alertness.

Stretching the neck and shoulders

  • Shoulder shrug Relieves early symptoms of tension in shoulders and neck. Raise shoulders toward ears until there is slight tension then relax. Repeat two or three times.
  • Head glide Stretches chest, neck and shoulder muscles. Sit upright and glide head straight back. This stretch will give the feel of a double chin. Repeat five times, 20 seconds each.
  • Shoulder roll Relaxes shoulder muscles. While inhaling, slowly raise shoulders toward ears and roll backward in a circular motion five times. Repeat in different direction.

Stretching hands and forearms

  • Forearm stretch Stretches wrist and arms. Place elbows on desk and palms together, lower wrists toward the desk and elbows will move outward as forearms stretch. Repeat three times, relaxing between each stretch.
  • Wrist stretch Loosens wrist and relaxes fingers. Bend wrist down and grasp with opposite hand to stretch down. Bend wrist up by pushing fingers back toward shoulder. Repeat three times.

Stretching the back

  • Side stretch Interlace fingers and lift arms over head, keeping elbows straight. Lean to left and right to stretch out sides.
  • Upper back stretch Hold right arm with left hand just above elbow, pushing elbow toward left shoulder. Repeat on opposite side.
  • Standing back bends Stretches hips and joins in lower back. Place hands on small of back and slowly bend backward. Hold for three seconds and repeat five times.

Take a deep breath and relax

Take a moment after stretching to practice breathing exercises and release tension.

  • Inhale slowly through the nose, expanding abdominal muscles to fill lungs with air. Tighten muscles with exhale, pushing breath out. Continue for three to five minutes.
  • Sit in a comfortable position, close eyes and make tight fists. Hold fists for five seconds then relax hands, repeating up to five times. Repeat with other tense muscles groups. For example contract and relax thighs.
  • Reduce eye strain caused by continual concentration on one object, like a computer monitor, by looking away for a few moments. Looking away from normal surroundings  can ease and relax strained eyes.