10 Best Stretches for Office Workers

Simple Exercises You Can Do Sitting or Standing at Your Desk

Sitting in front of a computer every day can wreak havoc on your body. That's especially true if you don't have an ideal ergonomic set-up (most of us don't), and stay in the same position for hours at a time. This lack of variation, along with hunching the shoulders and an uncomfortable chair, can cause back pain, headaches, tension, and tightness in your back, neck, and shoulders.

Studies show that regular stretching can help reduce neck and shoulder pain. Plus, regular breaks to stand and stretch increase productivity. Flexibility breaks allow your eyes to rest and your entire body to feel more comfortable.


Watch Now: 4 Quick and Easy Stretches You Can Do at Your Desk

The following flexibility exercises emphasize the neck, back, shoulders, hips, and glutes. Do them as often as you can and you'll notice less tightness and maybe even more productivity.

  • Set an alarm to go off every 45 to 55 minutes and perform the stretches as shown.
  • Hold each stretch for at least 15 seconds.
  • Avoid any exercises that cause pain or discomfort.
  • Do as many reps as you can and enjoy!

Chest Stretch

Chest Stretch

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Stretching the chest and shoulders may be one of the best exercises you can do for your body, since most of us spend much of our time hunched forward.

How to: In a seated or standing position, take the arms behind you and, if you can, lace your fingers together. Straighten the arms and gently lift your hands up a few inches until you feel a stretch in your chest. Hold for 10 to 30 seconds. Avoid this move if you have shoulder problems.

You can also use a resistance band and hold it overhead. Or, put your forearms on either side of a doorway, gently pressing forward until you feel a stretch in the chest.


Shoulder Shrug

The shoulders and neck hold a lot of stress and tension from typing, clicking, and scrunching. In fact, most of us probably hunch much more than we realize, making the trapezius and other shoulder muscles tight with tension. Get the blood moving through your traps and shoulders with shrugs. 

How to: Seated or standing, lift the shoulders up towards the ears, squeezing them as hard as you can. Hold for 1 to 2 seconds and roll them back as you relax down. Repeat for 8 to 10 reps and then roll the shoulders forward.


Upper Back Stretch

While shoulder shrugs will help get the circulation going, this upper back move will stretch all the muscles between the shoulder blades as well as the traps and the shoulders.

How to: Seated or standing, stretch the arms straight out and rotate the hands so that the palms face away from each other. Cross the arms so that the palms are pressed together, contract the abs and round the back, reaching away as you relax the head.

Don't collapse but, instead, imagine you're curving up and over an imaginary ball. Hold the stretch for 10 to 30 seconds. If twisting the arms doesn't feel good, simply lace the fingers together.


Spinal Twist

Sitting for prolonged periods of time can also affect the lower back, leaving it tight and achy. This twisting stretch will help gently work out some of that tension. Don't go too far on this—you only need to rotate a little to feel this stretch.

How to: In a seated position with the feet flat on the floor, contract the abs and gently rotate the torso towards the right. Use your hands on the armrest or seat of the chair to help deepen the stretch.

Only twist as far as you comfortably can and keep the back straight while keeping the hips square. Hold for 10 to 30 seconds and repeat on the other side.


Torso Stretch

Even if you pay attention to your posture, you may find yourself sinking back into a hunched position, which can make your back ache. This simple move will stretch all the muscles in your back, sides, and arms. You can also take the arms to either side to deepen the stretch down the sides of the torso.

How to: Seated or standing, lace the fingers together and stretch them up towards the ceiling. Take a deep breath as you stretch up as high as you can, then exhale and open the arms, sweeping them back down. Repeat for 8 to 10 reps.


Forearm Stretch

You may not even realize how tight your forearms can get from typing until you stretch them out. This simple move helps stretch those muscles in the forearms and wrists.

How to: Seated or standing, stretch the right arm out and turn the hand down so that the fingers point towards the floor. Use the left hand to gently pull the fingers towards you, feeling a stretch in the forearm. Hold for 10 to 30 seconds and repeat on the other hand.


Neck Stretch

Holding tension in the neck can lead to headaches and upper back tension as well. Many of us drop the head forward when working on the computer, which can put extra stress on the neck muscles. ​Your head can weigh up to 11 pounds, so just imagine how much stress that puts on your neck.

How to: Sitting in your chair, reach down and grab the side of the chair with the right hand and gently pull while tilting your head to the left, feeling a stretch down the right side of the neck and shoulder. Hold for 10 to 30 seconds and repeat on the other side.


Hip Flexor Stretch

The lower body also gets tight from sitting too much, especially the front of the hips. When you sit, the glutes stretch while the hip flexors are shortened, which creates tightness. Stretching this area several times a day can help reduce that tightness. Plus, it gets you up and out of the chair, which offers some immediate relief.

How to: While standing, take the right leg back a few feet. Bend the back knee, almost like you're doing a lunge, and lower both knees until you feel a stretch in the front of the right hip. Squeeze the glutes of the back leg to deepen the stretch. Hold for 10 to 30 seconds and repeat on the other side.


Seated Hip Stretch

Seated Hip Stretch

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

This very simple move helps open up the hips, which stretches the complex series of muscles in the hips and glutes. It feels great after a long day of sitting.

How to: While seated, cross the right ankle over the left knee and sit up nice and tall. Gently lean forward, keeping the back straight and reaching out with the torso until you feel a stretch in the right glute and hip.

You can also press down on the right knee to deepen the stretch. Hold for 10 to 30 seconds and repeat on the other side. Skip this move if it bothers the knees.


Inner Thigh Stretch

Inner Thigh Stretch

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

This is an excellent stretch for the inner thighs, hips, and groin. This builds on the previous exercise, opening the hips and getting rid of tightness and tension in the lower body. 

How to: While seated, take the legs wide, toes out and lean forward with the elbows on the thighs. Keep the back straight and the abs contracted. Gently press forward while using the elbows to push the thighs out until you feel a stretch in the inner thighs. Hold for 10 to 30 seconds and repeat as many times as you like.

4 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Nakphet N, Chaikumarn M, Janwantanakul P. Effect of different types of rest-break interventions on neck and shoulder muscle activity, perceived discomfort and productivity in symptomatic VDU operators: A randomized controlled trial. Int J Occup Saf Ergon. 2014;20(2):339-53. doi:10.1080/10803548.2014.11077048

  3. Cooley D, Pedersen S. A pilot study of increasing nonpurposeful movement breaks at work as a means of reducing prolonged sitting. J Environ Public Health. 2013;2013:128376. doi:10.1155/2013/128376

  4. Daneshmandi H, Choobineh A, Ghaem H, Karimi M. Adverse effects of prolonged sitting behavior on the general health of office workers. J Lifestyle Med. 2017;7(2):69-75. doi:10.15280/jlm.2017.7.2.69

Additional Reading

By Paige Waehner, CPT
Paige Waehner is a certified personal trainer, author of the "Guide to Become a Personal Trainer," and co-author of "The Buzz on Exercise & Fitness."