Get Your Stretch On!

Let’s be honest here: we literally sit on our butts all day. We sit while we eat, we sit while in class, and we spend hours sitting while we do our schoolwork. With finals looming in the not so distant future (ummm just two days away!?), we are spending even more time than usual sitting as we cram for exams and bang out those final papers, projects, and presentations.

Sitting in moderation is great. In fact, our bodies need rest to function properly. However, there are some adverse affects from sitting too much. Just since January of this year, researchers have found that sitting leads to worse mental health, a higher risk of death from heart disease and other causes, as well as a higher risk of being disabled. As Dr. Toni Yancey, a professor at UCLA, explains, “We just aren’t really structured to be sitting for such long periods of time, and when we do that, our body just kind of goes into shutdown.”

That’s the bad news, so what is the good news? You have the power to change how much time you spend sitting at your desk. Experts suggest getting up about every 30 minutes if possible.  Finished a page of your essay? Take a lap around the res. Spent 30 minutes productively studying for your exam? That deserves a walk to Dunkin and back.  See? It is easy to get moving.

And if all of the sitting starts to take a toll on your muscles, all you need to do is stretch it out. Here are five of our favorite stretches to get you through the next two weeks of finals.

1. Shake Out Those Shoulders

Humans aren’t meant to hunch. Yet, we hunch over our keyboards and notebooks ALL of the time. The best way to counteract all the hunching is by clasping your hands behind your back, and lifting your arms so that you feel a stretch in your chest and front shoulders. Keep your chin tucked into your chest to protect your neck.

2. Our Hips Don’t Lie

Ever wonder why your hips are so tight all the time? Well, sitting is the absolute worst for your hip flexors. To stretch out those hips, follow these simple instructions. Start in a kneeling lunge position with your right foot on the floor and your left shin pressing into the floor. Make sure your right knee is in line with your right ankle. Keep your hips square (aka horizontally aligned) as you move your torso toward the wall in front of you, gliding your right knee forward. Place your hands on the top of your right thigh for support and hold for thirty seconds. Switch sides and repeat.

3. Twist & Detoxify

This is a great stretch for your spine that you can do at your desk, kitchen table, library booth, etc. Any kind of twisting motion serves as the perfect antidote to sitting for extended periods of time. Start by placing both feet flat on the floor. Swivel your body toward the right side of the chair so that you are sitting diagonally on the seat. Inhale and lift your right arm up to the ceiling. On the exhale, move your arm to the back of the chair, taking hold of the chair back. Bring your left hand to either your right knee or the chair’s armrest. On each inhale, focus on lengthening your spine. On each exhale, see if you can twist farther to the right. Return to center and repeat on the opposite side.

4. Child’s Pose with Lat Stretch

This is another great stretch for your back as well as your shoulders and latissimus dorsi muscles. Start by positioning yourself in our favorite yoga pose… child’s pose. Sit back on your heels. Once you are comfortable, hinge forward until your forehead touches the floor, stretching your hands out in front with palms facing down. Hold for thirty seconds. Rotate your hands to the left and hold for thirty seconds. Rotate your hands to the right side and hold for thirty seconds.

5. De-stress Your Spine

If you’ve ever been to a yoga class, then you are familiar with the “cat-cow” stretching sequence. Start in tabletop position with your hands and knees firmly planted on the floor. On your exhale, bring your chin to your chest and pull your belly button up towards your spine (think scaredy-cat position). On your inhale, lift your nose and allow your belly to move towards the floor. Continue these motions with each exhale/inhale combo for 1-2 minutes.

By doing these five stretches everyday, you will be in tip-top shape even during the stress of final’s season. Remember to get up and shake your bones between essays, exams, and assignments. And most importantly, remember to smile. The best way to reduce stress is through the simple act of smiling!


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