Whether you are hunched over a laptop in a makeshift workspace or slouched on the couch binge-watching TV, you know — and can feel — that sitting for long periods can sabotage your health. From head to toe, these simple exercises can provide relief, restore muscle function and improve posture.
For strained eyes: To alleviate strain and strengthen your eyes, do eye rolls. Sit up straight and look down to your right, roll your eyes toward the sky, then to the left and down back to the ground. Then roll your eyes in the opposite direction. Repeat five times.
For a sore neck and tense shoulders: Start by looking over each shoulder and notice where your gaze lands. Now, start the stretch on the right side by dropping your right ear to your right shoulder. Take two fingers to the top of your neck behind your left ear and find the sternocleidomastoid muscle, the little valley that runs down your neck. Gently walk your fingers down this muscle, palpitating as you go. Repeat on the other side. Finish by looking over each shoulder again and noting how your gaze lands in a different place.
For a stretch to help you open your shoulders, release tight chest muscles and combat poor posture (above), scoot to the edge of your chair, extend your arms behind your back and interlace your fingers. Try to keep the palms together and roll your shoulders back and puff up your chest. To deepen the stretch, start to lift your clasped hands. Hold the stretch for up to a minute.
For a tight back: Sit at the edge of your chair with both feet flat on the floor. Rest your palms on your knees. As you inhale, press the chest forward. As you exhale, tuck your chin to your chest and round the spine forward. Repeat three to five times.
To restore the lower back, hamstrings and calves: Start by standing at your desk, with your chair out of the way. Place your palms flat on your desk. Walk backward until your arms are extended and your body is in an L shape with your feet under your hips. Press your hands into the table, elongate your back and push your hips up and back. Hold for five to 10 breaths.
Strengthen glutes and hamstrings: Begin by lying on your back, with your knees bent and your arms by your side. Your feet should be hip-width apart and 10 to 12 inches from your butt. Squeeze your glutes and lift your hips up into a bridge position. Hold while you lift your right foot off the ground, bringing your knee toward your chest until your hip is at a 90-degree angle. Lower your right foot to the ground and repeat on the left. Repeat 10 times, both your left and right feet, keeping the hips lifted throughout.
Lengthen and stretch your hip flexors: Use a runner’s lunge. From a standing forward fold, bend your knees, take both hands to the floor and step your right foot back. Drop the right knee and slide the foot back, lowering your pelvis until you feel a gentle stretch through the front of your thigh. Stay here with your hands framing your foot, or inhale and lift your torso up. Hold for five to 10 breaths and repeat on the other leg.
Don’t forget your feet: Sit on the floor with your legs extended and feet flexed. Exhale, fold forward with a flat back and walk your fingers forward alongside your legs, as far as you can go. Notice the point where your hands land. Now, forget about your hands but stay on the floor and place a tennis ball or something similar under the ball of your foot. Put as much weight on it as you can tolerate, and roll the ball back and forth the length of your foot several times. Repeat with the other foot. When you’ve finished, repeat that forward fold.