5 easy-to-do stretches if you've been hunched over screens all day
If you're reading this article from your handheld device, chances are you're doing so with your head forward, your shoulders rounded, and your back slumped. With the average adult now looking at their phone for north of five hours a day, it's no surprise that doctors now estimate that seven out of 10 people will be troubled by neck or back pain at some point in their lives.
Rather than being caused by an acute incident, neck and back issues typically arise from chronic overcompensation in certain muscles, and ‘laziness’ in other muscles—precisely because we spend too much time sitting in poor alignment.
If you sit and slouch too much, the front of your body (i.e. the chest, neck, and hip flexors) gets really tight, which can cause your shoulders, head, and neck to round forward, and can even compromise your breathing mechanics. Unfortunately, it’s a bit of a vicious cycle—these imbalances perpetuate the all-too-common slouched position, and the slouched position causes these issues to get worse. Not ideal.
If this sounds like you, you'll be happy to know that we can start to address most of these imbalances with a few good stretches, done regularly. Spending some time opening up the front of the body each week will go a long way in alleviating some of these issues.
Below we have five easy-to-do stretches that you can do whenever you have a few minutes to spare. A couple of quick pointers before we dive in:
- Hold each stretch for 40-60 seconds, or for about 15-20 deep breaths.
- Breathe deeply, slowly and consistently throughout—in through the nose and out throught the mouth. You should feel the front of your body expand and open up with each inhale.
- If you want to deepen the stretch, it's easiest to do so on the exhale.
- Begin gently, especially if stretching isn’t something you do regularly. If you need to stop and rest for any reason, do so.
Prone chest opener
- Lay down on your chest and stretch your right arm out to the side, in line with your forehead
- Use your left hand to push your body over, allowing your left leg to bend to support your body
- Come out of this pose slowly, before switching to the other side
- Lying on your belly, place your hands by your chest then use your hands to push your upper body upwards
- Keep your elbows tucked in and push your shoulders down, away from your ears
- For a deeper stretch, lift your knees off the floor
Medball thoracic stretch (or just find a big ball)
- Place a medball at your upper back and slowly raise your arms overhead while keeping your butt on the ground
- To increase the stretch in the upper back, allow your hips to come off the ground
- Keep your abs and butt engaged throughout
Low Lunge Quad Stretch
- From a low lunge position, twist your body towards your front leg, bend the back knee and grab your foot or ankle
- Use a towel or strap if you can't reach your foot
- Repeat on the other side
Suspension trainer chest opener
- Face away from the connection point, and keeping tension in the straps, stretch your arms up to a 'Y' position; stagger your stance so you don't lose your balance
- Keep your shoulder blades together and your elbows straight
- Gently lean forward to increase the stretch
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