Last month we focused on some upper body stretches that you can do while working from home to ease aches, pains, and tension. But we didn’t want to leave your lower body out of the blogs because it too is probably feeling some extra stress if you do not have your workplace set up ergonomically. Whether you are working from home or back to the office, an ergonomic workspace is crucial to your overall health and productivity. That’s why we created our Virtual Ergonomics Assessments to help you feel more comfortable in your work environment, wherever that may be! Our sessions include an initial ergonomic consultation, an analyzing period, an implementation session, and follow-up appointments to check on the progress of our action plan. Head to the service page or give our team a call to learn more about how we can help you feel less pain while working from home.
In the meantime, we want to continue our stretching guide to include the lower body so that you can improve your workday right now. Remember how important it is to get up and move throughout the workday for both your physical and mental health. Sitting for prolonged periods of time is connected to a number of health concerns so you want to do your best to break up your sitting time as much as possible. Here are our team’s top 4 lower body areas you should focus on stretching out while working from home or back to the office.
#1: Lower Back Stretches
Your upper back is a key area that feels the pain of prolonged sitting. It is important to gently work out some of the tension in your lower back to avoid it becoming tight and achy. The first stretch we recommend should be done sitting down with your feet flat on the floor and your back straight. You want to bring one of your knees to your chest and gently pull your thigh up towards you with both of your hands. You should feel this stretch in your lower back and upper buttock. Once you do, hold for 30 seconds then relax and switch legs.
A spinal twist is your next stretch and should also be done sitting down with your feet flat and back straight. Contract your abs and slowly rotate your torso towards the right while using your armrest or seat to help deepen the stretch. Be careful not to go too far with this twist as you only need to rotate a little bit to feel it properly. Remember to keep your back straight and hips square. Hold your twist for 30 seconds and then repeat on the other side.
#2: Hip Stretches
Sore hips are another common result of an improper workstation or sitting for too long without breaks. When you sit, your glutes stretch while your hip flexors are shortened. Staying in this position for too long will make your hip flexors tight so it is important to stretch out this area several times a day by getting up off your chair and moving around. Our favourite hip flexor stretch begins by standing up and moving your right leg back a few feet. Similar to doing a lunge, you want to bend your back knee and lower both knees until you feel a stretch in the front of your right hip. Try to squeeze the glutes in your back leg to really feel this stretch fully – hold for 30 seconds before switching legs and repeating on the other side.
Another easy stretch you can do to release any tension in your hip area is a seated hip stretch that works to open up this area. This stretch is amazing after a long workday because it stretches out the complex series of muscles in your hips and glutes. While sitting, cross your right ankle over your left knee. Keep your back straight and sit up nice and tall. Slowly lean forward and reach out with your torso until you feel this stretch in your right hip and glute. To deepen the stretch, try gently pressing down on your right knee. Hold this position for 30 seconds and then move to the other side. We recommend you talk to your Waterloo physiotherapist if your knees bother you before doing this stretch.
#3: Thigh Stretches
Your thighs are another area that can feel tight and achy after a long workday. You can actually keep building on the above hip stretches by incorporating an inner thigh stretch into your routine. While seated, position your legs wide apart with your toes slightly outwards. Lean forward so that your elbows are on your thighs but remember to keep your back straight and abs contracted. Carefully press forward and use your elbows to push your thighs out. This is a great stretch for your inner thighs, hips, and groin. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat as many times as you like (within reason).
You can also try a standing thigh stretch to work out the tension in this part of your body. Stand beside your chair or desk and use either for stability. While standing straight with your knees parallel to one another, lift your right foot and grab your ankle. Hold this position for 30 seconds – you should feel the stretch along the front of your thigh. Switch to the opposite leg and repeat.
#4: Calf & Hamstring Stretches
Don’t forget about your legs when it comes to relieving the tightness associated with prolonged sitting. Both of your calves and hamstrings can start to feel achy if you do not actively remember to stretch them out throughout the day. Starting with your calves, we recommend doing a standing wall stretch. Position yourself about an arm’s length away from your wall and place your right foot behind your left foot. Slowly lean your body forward towards the wall while keeping your right heel flat on the floor. Remember to keep your back as straight as possible and you can also bend your knee as you move forward to deepen the stretch. Hold for 30 seconds before switching to the other leg.
Next up is stretching out your hamstrings. While still standing, move around so that you are facing either a low desk, your chair, or a stair step. You want to set your right foot on one of these items while standing tall. Keep your chest high, hips square, and tailbone lifted as you bend forward from your hips. You should feel this stretch in the back of your thigh and knee. Hold this position for 30 seconds and then repeat with the opposite leg.
We hope that this blog helps add some lower body stretches to your workday routine! If you find yourself struggling to incorporate these stretches, we recommend setting a timer to remind yourself so that you do not get caught up in your work and forget to move. Trust us when we say your body and mind will thank you for taking regular stretching breaks throughout the day. Don’t forget to check out our Virtual Ergonomics Assessments to reduce the risk of pain or injury while enhancing your productivity, quality of work, safety, and comfort.
Give us a call at (519) 880-1733 or fill out our contact form with any questions and to learn how physiotherapy can enhance your overall quality of life. We’re also always happy to help answer any general physiotherapy and wellness questions, provide you with health tips, and schedule a consultation. Just ask!