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Chaparral 2014-2015: 23.3 FitTips

FitTip (December 2014)

Fit Tip #3: Stretch to Reduce Tech-Stress

by Erin Calderone

 

The average American office-worker exhibits a unique posture relative to the normal upright bearing of the evolved homo sapiens. Observe: the characteristic hunched back, rounded shoulders and head protruding forward as bleary eyes track the ant-like letters on the screen. Perhaps one day, humans might lean so far into their computer screens as to meld their own brains with the machine. But for now the primary result is simply a pain in the neck!

This classic screen-staring posture (exhibited also by students walking around campus fixated on their smart phones) causes strain in the muscles of the neck and upper back. It can also cause tightness in the pectoral (chest) muscles, which then pulls the shoulders forward and requires the neck to arch in order to look up. Besides causing pain, it also decreases the space our lungs can fill in - perhaps causing us to take shallower breaths and making us feel tired and fatigued.

But you don't have to let the machines win! With some simple stretches we can reverse the computer hunch syndrome and reduce the stress that causes muscle tension of the neck and shoulders. Do the stretches below at least once a day as well as after prolonged periods of screen time or whenever you're feeling tight. Hold each stretch for about 30-60 seconds and focus on deep breathing to increase relaxation in the muscles. Even a few minutes a day can help you feel more relaxed, energized and human again!

Picture of a neck stretch

Neck Stretch: Sit or stand with good posture (neutral spine) and drop your left ear toward the same shoulder. Place your left hand gently on top of your head to stretch further. Release slowly and repeat on the other side.

Picture of a chest stretch Chest Stretch: Standing or sitting, inhale and reach both arms up as high as you can. Exhale and bring your elbows down and back, squeezing your shoulder blades together in your back. (Your arms should form a “W”.) Keep looking forward and hold for 10 seconds, and repeat at least 3 times.
picture of a shoulder stretch Shoulder stretch: Standing, clasp both hands behind the back (or grab a towel or sweater between your hands). Keeping your shoulders down and gaze forward, extend your elbows and press your hands down until you feel a stretch across your chest and shoulders.
picture of a side stretch Side stretch: Standing or sitting, reach your right arm up as far as you can as you lean to the left. Support yourself on a chair or wall to keep your balance. Try to push your shoulder blade up out of your back as far as you can. Release slowly and repeat on the other side.

 

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