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Stretches for Stress Relief at Work

For many of you, your work days are characterized by long periods of sitting at a desk or stuck in a cramped work area, punctuated only by trips to the coffee or copy machine. Other folks are on their feet all day. In either case, stretching is a great way of releasing any tension that has accumulated in your muscles. Here are some great stress-relief stretches.

The cherry-picker

This stretch works well for your shoulders, arms, and back. Sit in your chair, with feet flat on the floor, or stand in place. Raise both of your arms over your head and point your fingers directly toward the ceiling.

Now, pretend to reach and pick a cherry on a branch that’s just a little higher than your right hand. Stretch that hand an inch or so, and then make a fist. Squeeze for two or three seconds. Relax your hand. Do the same with your left hand. If cherries aren’t your thing, consider apples.

The pec stretch and squeeze

This move is good for relieving tightness in your pectoral and deltoid muscles and upper back. Sitting at your desk, or standing up straight, put both of your hands behind your head with your fingers interlaced. Bring your elbows back as far as you can.

[Credit: Illustration by Pam Tanzy]
Credit: Illustration by Pam Tanzy

Hold that tension for five to ten seconds, release the tension, and then do it a second and third time. Find various times in your day when you can repeat this stretch.

The leg lift

This stretch relieves tension in your quadriceps (in the thighs) and strengthens your abdominal muscles. Sitting in a chair, lift both of your legs straight in front of you. At the same time, curl your toes toward you.

Hold that tension for five to ten seconds and then let your feet fall to the floor. Repeat two or three times, and at other points in your day.

[Credit: Illustration by Pam Tanzy]
Credit: Illustration by Pam Tanzy

The upper-back stretch

This stretch is great for relieving any tension in your upper back. Put your fingertips on your shoulders, with elbows out to the side. Raise your elbows until they are in line with your shoulders. Now bring your elbows forward until they touch or almost touch each other.

Hold that position for five to ten seconds and then let your arms fall comfortably to your side. Repeat two or three times, and also at different times in your day.

[Credit: Illustration by Pam Tanzy]
Credit: Illustration by Pam Tanzy
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