Stretching Exercises for Sedentary People

Senior woman stretching at side of infinity pool, holding rail

A sedentary lifestyle can wreak havoc with your health. Sitting behind a desk for hours every day can trigger weight gain, muscle tension and imbalances, poor posture and pain. A regular exercise routine can keep you at a healthy weight, and frequent stretching throughout the day will improve your flexibility and reduce the negatives associated with a sedentary life.

Upper Body Stretches

Sitting and staring at a computer screen for hours at a time can strain your neck and round your shoulders and upper back. Targeted stretches can offer relief. Tilting your head forward and to each side and holding each stretch about 20 seconds can ease neck tension; interlacing your fingers behind your head and pulling your shoulder blades together can stretch your upper back. Shoulder shrugs -- pulling your shoulders up toward your ears for five seconds at a time -- can sooth neck and shoulder tension.

Lower Body Stretches

The muscles in your lower body, including your hip flexors and hamstrings, can tighten and shorten from inactivity, resulting in weak glutes and an increased risk of injuries. To stretch your hamstrings, grasp one knee with your hands while you're sitting down and pull it up toward your chest. Hold this for 20 seconds before switching sides. To stretch your hips and also get a nice lower back stretch, cross one leg over the other and twist your upper body in the opposite direction of your lower body. Push with your hand against your upper thigh to emphasize the stretch for 15 seconds before switching sides.

Arm, Hand and Facial Stretches

Your arms, hands and face can get tired and tense from repetitive motions, such as typing or staring at a computer screen. Straightening and separating your fingers as much as you can for 10 seconds can offer relief, as can interlacing your fingers and extending your arms forward or overhead for 10 seconds at a time with your palms separated and facing away from your body. To relax your eyes and face, open your mouth and eyes as wide as you can for five to 10 seconds at a time before releasing the tension.


Never do stretches to the point at which you experience pain. You should feel only a slight tension as you stretch, and the aftermath should be pleasant. Repeat each stretch two to three times and try stretching a little deeper with each consecutive stretch. Avoid holding your breath when you stretch; take slow, deep breaths and focus on the area you are stretching. If you have a health condition or injury, see your doctor before starting a regular stretching regimen.