Useful workplace and desk stretches

Sustained periods of inactivity sitting at a desk can have detrimental effects to our health. In addition to a host of potential musculoskeletal issues that can be caused, sedentary work practices can lead to an increased risk of other conditions such as cardiovascular disorders, diabetes and cancer. A 2019 article by the British Medical Journal (BMJ) linked a sedentary lifestyle to around 70,000 annual deaths in the UK.

As the number of people working from home has increased drastically recently, so to has the risks posed by sedentary work practices.  As well as setting up your work station correctly, it is also important for you to stand and stretch every 30 minutes to maintain flexibility and reduce the risk of back, neck and upper limb problems. 

We suggest to frequently repeat the following exercises during the day and visit our wellbeing page for more information on how to stay active.

Neck retraction exercise

Keep your eyes level. Don’t drop or raise your chin. Pull your head gently back as though you are pushing the back of your head into a wall. Repeat 1-2 times hourly.

neck retraction exercise










Upper trapezius stretch

In sitting, set your shoulder slightly down and back. Then follow the exercise:

  • tilt your head towards the opposite shoulder and repeat the shoulder setting to ensure your shoulder blade is fixed - hold for 5 seconds
  • repeat the above exercise but tilt your head down and rotate away as though moving your nose toward your opposite armpit


upper trapezius stretch









Waiter/median nerve gliding exercise

Stand with your right hand pointing outwards by your shoulder, as if you are carrying a tray like a waiter. Move the hand out to straighten the elbow as far as possible - pain allowing - keeping the wrist extended backwards and then bend the elbow back to starting position. Do not hold the stretch. Repeat with the left hand. Do this exercise from 3 to 5 times daily.


median nerve exercise








Wrist flexion stretch

Repeat both exercises:

Hold your arm out in front of you, with your palm facing downwards and with your elbow straight. Gently stretch your hand downwards applying gentle pressure to the back of your hand.


wrist extensor


Hold your arm out in front of you, with your palm facing upwards and with your elbow straight. Gently stretch your hand downwards applying gentle pressure on your fingers.

wrist flexor







Calf stretch

Stand about 3 feet from a wall and put one foot behind you, ensuring your toes are facing forward. Keep your heel on the ground and ensure the arch of your foot is raised, then lean forward with your right knee straight, directing your knee over your middle toes. Hold this position for 30 seconds.

calf stretch wall










Lumbar extension

Stand up and place your hands in the small of your back. Gently lean backwards and keep your chin down - as though you have an apple between your chin and your chest.

mckenzie extension

Side bends

Stand up with your feet slightly apart. Keep your back in line and very gently reach your hand down the side of your leg towards your knee. Repeat the exercise on the other side.

side bends

Leg raises

Stand up and very gently lift 1 leg to your chest at a time. Keep your back upright and do not lean your chest towards your knee.

leg raises

Leg extensions

Rest your fingers against a wall or on the back of a chair. Gently lift one leg backwards. Do not lean forwards when performing the exercise. Repeat with the other leg. Try to perform 1 or 2 of these stretches every hour. Alternate between stretches.

leg estension