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 there are many benefits of stretching, including reducing 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.

Risks of Sitting Too Long

Your body is made to move—not to sit in the same position for long stretches of time. Sitting too long can affect your health in many ways, including shortening your life span.

A large study looking at 8,000 adults found that sitting for a prolonged period of time increased your risk for heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and even early death. In addition, experts say too much sitting can cause back pain, neck pain, hip pain, and even shoulder pain. They also warn that prolonged sitting contributes to weight gain and obesity.

To help break the cycle of prolonged sitting, experts recommend taking a break to move for one to three minutes every 30 to 45 minutes—or at least once an hour. Bottom line: you need to find ways to sit less. This break can be simply standing at your desk (or using a standing desk), short walks, or doing the stretches below. This movement not only loosens up your muscles and improves circulation, but also gives your mind a little boost to help you stay focused.


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

Since most of us spend much of our time hunched forward, it is important to stretch your pectoral (chest) muscles and shoulders. Avoid this move if you have shoulder problems.

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. You can also perform this exercise seated in a chair.
  2. Move your arms behind you and, if you can, lace your fingers together. 
  3. Straighten the arms and gently lift your hands up a few inches until you feel a stretch in your chest. 
  4. Hold for 10 to 30 seconds.
  5. Repeat 5-10 times.

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

Shoulder Shrug

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

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. Exercises like shoulder rolls and shrugs will get the blood moving through your traps .

  1. Sit or stand with your back straight and your shoulders back.
  2. Lift the shoulders up towards the ears, squeezing them as hard as you can.
  3. Hold for 1 to 2 seconds and roll them back as you relax down.
  4. Repeat for 8 to 10 reps.
  5. End the exercise by rolling the shoulders forward and backwards several times.

Upper Back Stretch

Upper back stretch

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

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.

  1. Start in a seated or standing position.
  2. Stretch the arms straight out and rotate the hands so that the palms face away from each other.
  3. Cross the arms so that the palms are pressed together and clasp fingers together. If twisting the arms doesn't feel good, simply lace the fingers together.
  4. Contract the abs and round the back, reaching away with your arms as you relax the head down.
  5. Don't collapse but, instead, imagine you're curving up and over an imaginary ball.
  6. Hold the stretch for 10 to 30 seconds.

Spinal Twist

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

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. If you have back pain, include this stretch, as well as other back exercises to stretch your lower body and strengthen your core.

  1. Start in a seated position with the feet flat on the floor.
  2. Contract the abs and gently rotate the torso towards the right.
  3. Use your hands on the armrest or seat of the chair to help deepen the stretch.
  4. Only twist as far as you comfortably can and keep the back straight while keeping the hips square.
  5. Hold for 10 to 30 seconds and repeat on the other side.
  6. Repeat five to 10 times on each side.

Torso Stretch

Side stretch

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Poor posture can not only cause a hunchback appearance, it can also 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.

  1. Start in a seated or standing position.
  2. Lace the fingers together and stretch them up towards the ceiling.
  3. Take a deep breath as you stretch up as high as you can.
  4. You can also lean to the right and to the left to stretch your sides.
  5. Exhale and open the arms, sweeping them back down.
  6. 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 to prevent hand and wrist pain from forming.

  1. Start in a seated or standing position.
  2. Stretch the right arm out and turn the hand down so that the fingers point towards the floor.
  3. Use the left hand to gently pull the fingers towards you, feeling a stretch in the forearm.
  4. Hold for 10 to 30 seconds and repeat on the other hand.
  5. Repeat five to 10 times on each side.

Neck Stretch

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

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. A neck massager can help, however watching your posture and doing this stretch can provide relief.

  1. Start in a sitting position, with your back straight and shoulders back.
  2. Reach down and grab the side of the chair with the right hand.
  3. Gently pull while tilting your head to the left, feeling a stretch down the right side of the neck and shoulder.
  4. Hold for 10 to 30 seconds and repeat on the other side.
  5. Repeat five to 10 times on each side.

Hip Flexor Stretch

Hip opener

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

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. Incorporating hip flexor stretches several times a day can help reduce that tightness. Plus, it gets you up and out of the chair, which offers some immediate relief.

  1. Start in a standing position.
  2. Take the right leg back a few feet.
  3. Bend the back knee, in a lunge position, and lower both knees until you feel a stretch in the front of the right hip.
  4. Squeeze the glutes of the back leg to deepen the stretch.
  5. Hold for 10 to 30 seconds and repeat on the other side.
  6. Repeat five to 10 times on each 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. Skip this move if it bothers the knees.

  1. In a sitting position, cross the right ankle over the left knee and sit up nice and tall.
  2. Gently lean forward, keeping the back straight and reaching out with the torso until you feel a stretch in the right glute and hip.
  3. You can also press down on the right knee to deepen the stretch.
  4. Hold for 10 to 30 seconds and repeat on the other side.
  5. Repeat five to 10 times on each side.

Inner Thigh Stretch

Inner Thigh Stretch

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Inner thigh stretches are important for the hips and groin. This builds on the previous exercise, opening the hips and getting rid of tightness and tension in the lower body. 

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

Sitting in the same position for prolonged periods can cause many health issues, including back pain, neck pain—as well as increased risk of heart disease, cancers, and diabetes. Make an effort to incorporate more movement, like stretches and standing, throughout the day, with experts recommending at least a couple of minutes of movement every 30 to 45 minutes. 

These 10 stretches help loosen up your muscles, improve circulation, maintain your flexibility, and can easily be done at your office. Incorporate the stretches into your regular exercise routine for a well-rounded workout plan.

6 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.
  1. Lurati AR. Health issues and injury risks associated with prolonged sitting and sedentary lifestyles. Workplace Health Saf. 2018;66(6):285-290. doi:10.1177/2165079917737558

  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. Biswas A, Oh PI, Faulkner GE, et al. Sedentary time and its association with risk for disease incidence, mortality, and hospitalization in adults: a systematic review and meta-analysisAnn Intern Med. 2015;162(2):123-132.

  4. Yale Medicine. 2019. Why is sitting so bad for us?

  5. 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

  6. 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."