Although we’ve had some delightful, sunny days, the reign of winter is still upon us. Most adults spend the colder months working inside and it’s been shown that these sedentary days can affect your posture and can contribute to pain and stiffness. "If you’re sitting for an extended period of time, your hip flexor muscles can actually shorten, creating aches and pains all over your body,” says Antoine Coleman.
Coleman co-founded Tissue Enhancements with Jessica White, a registered massage practitioner, in 2018 to help clients in Baltimore achieve pain management through a variety of holistic approaches. While they started with athletes, they quickly started treating all types of clients. “We see a lot of work becoming sedentary with limited movement, that is creating structure dysfunctions at a rapid rate,” said White. “We work to keep the body strong and stretching regularly is all part of that.”
If you aren’t adding stretches, even simple ones, to your daily routine, you could be sacrificing work you’ve done at the gym and setting yourself up for injury. We talked to Team Tissue Enhancements about ways to help ease pain and boost energy and here are a few of their favorite easy stretches you can do on your own.
Start any stretch session by grounding your self with some abdominal engagement and what the team calls “belly breathing.” In a seated or standing position, inhale with your chest tall and ribs relaxed. On the inhale, let the air shoot past your nasal cavity and diaphragm until your stomach inflates. On the exhale, let your belly flatten and allow your shoulders to decompress. “For a deeper stretch, tighten your belly right under your navel to activate your transfer abdominal muscles—the deep ab muscles that assist in correct posture.”
Seated Spinal Twist
This stretch is easy to do at your desk chair. “This is helpful with maintaining good posture and muscle fatigue while in a prolonged seated position. It helps the entire upper body lengthen to provide circulation for decreased stiffness.” Inhale deeply. As you exhale, turn to your left. Reach your left hand to the back of your chair and place your right hand on the arm. Keep breathing and use your grip to twist yourself deeper with each exhale. Hold the twist for at least three breaths. As a bonus neck stretch, take your gaze from left to right in your twist. Slowly come back to facing forward and repeat on your right side.
“You can perform this stretch from a seated or standing position to decrease stress in your upper back and shoulders.” To start, reach your arms straight out in front of your body. Bend your left arm straight up from the elbow and bring your right arm underneath it. Wrap your right arm around the left until you are able to grasp your left forearm or palm with your right hand. Ideally, you’ll clasp your palms together. In this twisted position, lift your elbows toward the ceiling. Hold this position for at least three breaths then slowly release. Repeat on the other side. “For most people that sit, this stretch helps create space so proper muscles can function properly.”
Leg Swing Stretch
While standing, hold on to the wall with your palms flat. Swing your left leg across the body with the toes dorsiflexed going across the body and toes pointed outward the opposite way. Maintain core engagement and an upright back. Swing ten times and repeat on the other side. If you can, gradually increase the height of leg during repetitions. “This stretch promotes blood flow and it is a great dynamic stretch for the hamstrings and illopsoas. During the side to side swing can increase your range of motion in the hips, lower back and quadricep muscles.”
Side Body Stretch
This is one of our favorite stretches to do while sitting in the office (or on a plane!). Sit straight up and bring both arms above your head, clasping your hands together. Gently lower your hands over to one side. If you want to go deeper into this stretch, twist your chest and face toward the ceiling. “While sitting, hips and abdominal muscles create restrictions and shorten. With the side body stretch, you can improve flexibility and brings balance to the body.”
Standing Hip-Flexor Stretch
If you’re sitting at desk all day, your hip flexors may get tight and give you limited range of motion as our day goes on. To stretch your hip flexors, stand up and place bend your right leg. Place your right foot on your chair or a bench or anything immobile at knee height. Keeping your foot on the chair, shift your body forward keeping your lower back straight as possible. Hold for three breaths before slowly centering your balance and bringing your foot back to the floor. Repeat on the other side. “Hip flexor stretches are useful for balance and stability for both upper and lower body. This is another great stretch for increasing range of motion and mobility in the legs.”
BONUS: Move Around
In addition to these stretches, Team Tissue Enhancements reminds us that getting up and moving around is key, especially for more sedentary work. “It keeps the body in a state of well-being and allows itself to function the way it should without constant restrictions,” says White. “Stretching and moving around are healthy way to promote good cells, revitalize aching limbs and giving oxygen to the entire body.”