Healthy Living 

Americans spend huge portions of their lives at the office. But since we’re so busy working, most of us don’t think of our desks – or our cubicles – as ideal places for working out. Given the increasing demands, stress levels, and repetitive requirements of many of our jobs, however, it is essential to our physical and mental health to keep active during the day, stretching ourselves beyond the regular rigors of spreadsheets and paperwork.

Whether you realize it or not, sitting in an office chair hour after hour is one of the worst things you can do for your body, particularly your back and neck. Couple that with extended hours of repetitive motion tasks like typing or answering the phone, and you’re setting yourself up for chronic pain and stress-related issues. According to an article posted by WebMD, employees who maintain sedentary positions at their jobs – with narrow ranges of motion – are more likely to suffer long-term injuries, chronic stress, and weight gain. One of the best ways to protect our joints, bones and muscles, however, is to take regular, stress-relieving stretch breaks throughout the day.

Some of the stretching exercises we can perform at work include shoulder shrugs, torso twists, back hugs, leg hugs, leg extensions, and hand and finger extensions. Standing up and sitting down at regular intervals (without help from our hands) can also make us more alert, energetic and flexible. And if we have the option, replacing our office chair with an exercise ball is an excellent way to improve our balance and strengthen our lower backs, reducing the risk of spinal stress and accompanying vertebral injuries.

As an added bonus, frequent stretching can also make us more refreshed and productive in our jobs. As reported by Shape magazine, these mini-breaks help clear our minds for the tasks ahead, and release us, at least temporarily, from the stresses of our day.

For optimal results, schedule your stretch time every hour, or every bathroom break, to fully integrate these changes (and benefits!) into your daily work routine.

-Jean Bowick

YMCA of Greater Birmingham, www.ymcabham.org 

Read more healthy information from the YMCA at www.BirminghamChristian.com. Click on News/Health

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