No matter what the occupation—from clerical to construction; accounting to agriculture—we all can benefit from a stretching routine at work. And, it doesn’t matter how large or small the workplace. Some form of stretching is possible anytime, anywhere. Although some people are genetically predisposed to some amount of “tightness” of their connective tissue, gentle stretching does provide muscle relief and a time for recovery. Just standing up to stretch after sitting for long periods of time has recuperative value as it improves circulation, allows the exchange of nutrients between the discs and surrounding tissue, plus it compensates for being in a static posture.
Three main purposes for movement are:
- Warm-up or preparing for activity
- Movement or change of posture to get fuel (oxygen) to the muscles
- Balance—or counter-posture—to compensate for a statically-held posture
Types of beneficial movement
- Warm-Up or Preparation. Although often thought of as calisthenics in the gym or on the field, warming-up is designed as a general muscle and cardiovascular warm-up to be done prior to strenuous or repetitive work or play. Warming up is especially important in cold environments. The goal is a general body warm-up that should include activities for the upper body, the trunk, and the lower body. Examples would include arm circles, jumping jacks, or marching in place. The intent is to increase blood flow through the muscle and make it more ready to respond to work or play and loosen up joints. Professional athletes always warm up before they go out on the field; it should not be any different for the industrial athlete.
- Relieving Muscle Tension. The purpose of periodically stretching during the course of the workday is to “apologize” to muscles that have been overworked, overstretched, or held in an awkward position. Periodic stretching compensates for overuse by bringing the body back into balance. For example, if the task requires bending forward for long periods of time, stand up and gently arch backwards at the waist. If the task requires long periods of static sitting, s-l-o-w-l-y roll the shoulders backwards and gently bring the shoulder blades together. This moves the shoulders and chest out of the hunched-over posture frequently seen in people who sit at their workstation for extended periods of time.
When to warm up
- Warm up before physical activity at work, home, or play.
When to stretch
- Stretch before and after any physical activity at work, home, or play.
- Stretch at various times throughout the day:
- In the morning, after being in one position for a while such as sitting, standing, or bending
- Periodically during the work day
- When the muscles and joints feel stiff
How to stretch
- Stretch s-l-o-w-l-y and gradually, putting a constant stretch on the muscle.
- Don’t bounce!
- Tension, not pain, should be felt in the muscle.
- Hold the stretch for 5 to 15 seconds.
- Keep breathing. Continue to breathe slowly but steadily throughout the stretch.