5 Desk stretches to stay limber and relaxed

If you have at a typical desk job, you could be spending the majority of your time at work sitting on a chair and staring at a computer for 6 hours or more! I won’t go as far as to say “sitting is killing you” (a la 2013 shock-worthy headlines) but over time it does take a toll on your back, hips and neck.

To keep yourself from getting stiff and sore, here are 5 simple stretches you can do at your desk in under 6 minutes. If you can do these two or three times a work day, it will keep your blood moving, give you a brain- and eye- break and even help stave off some stress.

Stretches should be held for about 30 seconds, or even better, hold for about 3 or 4 deep breaths. Breathing should be easy and comfortable – if you find yourself turning red or blue, back off the stretch!

Repeat 2-3 times each side, or as time permits. Only have time for 1 stretch per side? No problem, something is always better than nothing! Read more benefits to stretching here.

Desk stretch 1: Trunk Rotations

This is a great stretch for the muscles of your trunk – obliques, abs, and erector spinae. This is best done in a stable chair, as it makes it easier to anchor yourself. One with a rotating seat is okay, but don’t cheat by letting yourself turn.

  • Plant your feet on the ground
  • Rotate your body towards one direction, using the hands as a method of support
  • Repeat on the other side
  • If you have and spinal issues or concerns about your lower back, avoid this stretch for now

Desk stretch 2: Side Bends

This stretch focuses on the lats and obliques. It can help your upper body relax as you allow your ribcage to expand with the movement.

  • Extend one arm up and reach towards the ceiling to lengthen out the spine
  • Now, slightly bend towards your opposite side, being careful to not twist forward or back
  • Imagine reaching over a large beach ball, keeping length in the waist – this prevents collapsing through one side and crunching up your torso
  • Repeat on opposite side
  • If you have shoulder issues and find reaching over head difficult, you can leave that part out, or bend your arm and place your hand on the back of your head.

Desk stretch 3 – Touch your toes!

We’re most familiar with this as a standing stretch, but it can also be done in a chair. This stretch addresses hamstrings, calves and lower back.

  • Scoot up to the edge of the chair, extend your legs and reach forward to try to touch your toes
  • Individuals with lower back issues should be cautious when performing this stretch. Allow your knees to be soft and legs slightly bent. If you have issues such as a disc herniation, please consult with your GP, physio or kinesiologist first!

Desk stretch 4: Forward Bend

This will stretch the lats, and the muscles between the shoulder blades, the rhomboids. Think of it as a desk version of the “Downward dog” position from yoga.

  • From a seated position, rest your palms on your desk, bend forward at the waist, reach forward and extend your arms.
  • Individuals with shoulder or neck issues should be cautious with this stretch

Desk Stretch 5: Cross legged stretch

This is move great for stretching out your hips and glutes. If you find that you cross your legs in one direction often, you’ll want to even things out with this stretch. (Even though I’m facing you in the first picture, it’s the best to shows the ankle, knee and foot positioning).

  • While seated, place one ankle over the opposite knee
  • Bend forward at the hip
  • If you have knee issues, please be cautious with this stretch.
  • If you have lower back issues, you can skip the forward lean and gently press down on the bent knee.
  • If you’re wearing a skirt, you might want to skip this one!


Did I miss any of your favourite desk stretches? Share in the comments below!

Blog post written by James Hsin – Client Care Manager


James is currently studying in his 3rd year at kinesiology at UBC, and grew up a relatively active individual. He has been training primarily in Muay Thai for the past 4 years, training with champions and beginners alike. James is a firm believer that exercise should be like playing around – it’s better if its fun! James hopes he can share how his fitness journey has encouraged him to grow, and hopes to inspire you to do the same.

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