HEALTHY AT WORK: THE BENEFITS OF STRETCHING
For some jobs, a typical workday is a real workout. If your job requires standing for long periods or a lot of active or repetitive movement — like bending, lifting or reaching — it’s important to approach your work like the exercise that it is. By taking the time each day to warm up and stretch before and after your workday you can not only reduce your risk of injury, but also boost your energy for after work.
Warm It Up
Getting your body moving before you stretch is important — so start your day with a brisk 5-minute walk before your shift. If you live close by, consider walking to work instead of driving. Plus, walking home is also a great way to decompress from a long day. Warming up will get your blood pumping, loosen tight muscles and help achy joints. It can also re-energize you at the end of the day if you have a long commute home.
Get Your Stretch On
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, overexertion is a leading cause of workplace injury. All of the stress you place on your body from repetitive movements and from being on your feet all day, can lead to permanent damage if ignored. This is where regular stretching can make a big difference. One way to help prevent overexertion and other musculoskeletal symptoms of hard physical labor is to stretch.
Just as an athlete needs to warm up and prepare to play, you also need to prepare your body for the day. Stretching improves flexibility, range of motion, posture, blood flow and can even calm the mind. Try taking a few minutes each day to stretch before, during and after work. Here are a few ideas to get you started: Remember to consult your healthcare provider before beginning any new exercise program.
- Shoulder Rolls: While inhaling, slowly raise shoulders toward ears and roll backward in a circular motion five times. Repeat in the opposite direction.
- Upper back stretch: Take one arm across your body. Place the other hand behind and just above the elbow of the arm that is crossed. Hold this position for 10-15 seconds then repeat on the other side.
- Side stretches: Interlace fingers and lift arms over head, keeping elbows straight. Lean to left and right to stretch out sides.
- Wrist stretches: Bend wrist down and grasp with opposite hand to stretch. Bend wrist up by pushing fingers back toward shoulder. Repeat three times.
- Quad Stretch: While standing, touch a wall or stable object for balance. Grasp the top of your ankle or forefoot and gently pull your ankle upwards towards your buttocks, keeping knees close. Hold and repeat. Do the other side.
- Glutes, hamstrings, and calves stretch: Stand with your feet hip-width apart, bend forward until your palms touch the floor (or use a low table if you can’t reach). Slowly walk your hands out as far as you can in front of you while still maintaining contact with the floor/table. Pause, then walk your hands back. Do this a few times.
Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics, United States Department of Labor