Permanent link for Relieve the Stress of Sitting  on November 18, 2020

With virtual work and school, it can be hard on your body to sit consistently. Since the beginning of COVID-19, there has been a 33% decrease in physical activity, from 108 minutes per week to 72 minutes per week. Alternatively, there has been a 28% increase in sitting time, from 5 hours a day to 8 hours. 

Keeping yourself active and moving, even if you are stuck at a desk, can be beneficial for your health. Wherever you are, most stretches can be modified for either sitting or standing. If able, you can stand at your desk while stretching, or if you’re sitting working on midterms or school projects, there are also stretching techniques that can be done seated. Stretching will help with posture, pain, and productivity, and here are some you can do: 

Neck And Shoulder Stretch
Hunching over your desk can start to place strain on your neck and stiffen your shoulders.

  • Stand at your desk, reach your arms behind you, interlock your finger, and lift your arms.
  • Start to lean forward and bring your chest to your legs like a forward bend, allowing your arms to hang.
  • You should feel a stretch in your chest and shoulders, releasing built-up tension. 

Seated Hip Stretch 
Having tight glutes can cause pain in your knees and lower back. Making sure to stretch your hips and keep the glutes loose and active to help decrease other pains and possible injuries. 

  • Sit in your chair with your feet flat on the floor, take one ankle and place it on the opposite knee.
  • Keeping your back straight, from here, start to fold forward, bringing your chest to your lap.
  • The more you bend, the deeper the stretch will begin to feel in your hip and glute area. 

Spinal Twist
Being seated can cause a lot of pressure on your lower back, spinal twist can help release lower back pressure as well as elongating the supporting back muscles. This can be done either seated or standing.

  • When seated, place your left hand on your right knee and twist your entire body towards your right side
  • Looking over your shoulder, hold here then unwind and twist to the other side
  • When standing, have your arms straight in front of you. 
  • On an exhale, open up your arms to one side
  • Bring one arm behind you and keep the other in front. Hold here, then unwind and repeat the process on the other side. 

Seated Cat-Cow
The spine can hold a lot of tension throughout the day moving the spine in flexion and extension can help to loosen the body

  • Sit up straight, and on an inhale, arch your back looking up and hug your shoulder blades together moving into the cow part of the pose.
  • On the exhale, round the back and move your chin towards your chest moving into the cat part of this pose.
  • Repeat as many times as you need. 

Rib Circles 
Creating circles with your ribs will create more movement in your torso.

  • Keeping your hands on your thighs, move your ribs from left to right.
  • After you feel comfortable with that, think about shifting your ribs forward and back, like you would with cat-cow.
  • Put those together moving from right to the front, left then back.
  • Repeat as you need and try to rotate both clockwise and counterclockwise. 

Forward Bend 
This is a pose that helps release the tension that can build up in your lower back from hours of sitting. 

  • Inhale to help lengthen your spine as tall as you can.
  • Exhale, and folding forward, bring your chest into your knees.
  • Relax into the pose and take a couple of breaths with your chest to your knees, letting your arms and head hang heavy towards the ground.
  • Come out of the pose when you're ready by leading with the top of your head, walking your hands up your legs, and keeping your spine straight and tall. 

Whether you are working remotely, have all online classes, or are going into an office, keeping your body moving is key to living a healthy life. Try to stand up and move around once every hour. Change what you're sitting on, whether that be a swivel chair or exercise ball. If you’re able, work at a standing desk. If you don't have access to a standing desk, make one at home using laundry baskets, books, or any crates or boxes you may have laying around. Even just moving your work environment from the dining room to the kitchen table to outside can keep yourself moving. Take just a little time out of your day to stay active. A body in motion stays in motion, even if it’s just a few stretches a day. 

By: Erin Colling




  • Dickens, Louise. “15 Simple And Quick Office Stretches To Boost Work Efficiency.” Lifehack, Lifehack, 14 July 2014, 
  • Rasmussen, Rebecca, and Rebecca Rasmussen. “10 Chair Yoga Stretches To Undo The Damage of Sitting.” Paleo Blog, 13 Mar. 2019, 
  • “Standing Spinal Twist Pose I Steps.”, 
  • Wedig, Isaac J, et al. “Infographic. Stay Physically Active during COVID-19 with Exercise as Medicine.” British Journal of Sports Medicine, BMJ Publishing Group Ltd and British Association of Sport and Exercise Medicine, 23 Oct. 2020, 

Image Credit: Katie Burdick

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Page last modified November 18, 2020