Counteract The Harms Of Sitting With These 5 Stretches

Too much time spent sitting daily can be terribly toxic to your health.

You might already be aware that inactivity and a sedentary lifestyle can lead to weight gain. But it can also cause or contribute to serious health problems, such as:

  • cardiovascular disease
  • type 2 diabetes
  • chronic pain
  • osteoporosis
  • depression
  • dementia
  • frailty
  • fatigue
  • some types of cancer

To offset the negative effects of sitting, it’s important to get up and move around frequently. Make a conscious effort not to stay sitting for more than an hour at a time. And it’s not enough to simply replace sitting with standing still. It would help if you did something active.

Here’s a simple stretching routine you can do to counteract the effects of sitting:

Neck Rolls

  1. You can do this while you are still sitting if you prefer.
  2. Take a few deep breaths.
  3. Tilt your head back as if looking up to the ceiling.
  4. Take another deep breath while holding this position.
  5. Slowly roll your head over to one side, letting your ear come close to your shoulder.
  6. Breathe another full breath.
  7. Gently roll to the other side, bringing your other ear to your other shoulder.
  8. Another big breath.
  9. Roll your head forward to touch your chin to your chest.
  10. And another big breath.
  11. Tilt back to look toward the ceiling again.
  12. Let your muscles guide you through these movements—stretch out the tension wherever it is.

A Whole Body Stretch

  1. Now stand up.
  2. Take a deep breath or two.
  3. Raise your arms up overhead.
  4. Stretch your body to reach up as high as you can.
  5. Raise up onto your toes to get a few inches higher (and stretch out your lower leg muscles).
  6. Breathe deeply as you stretch your whole body to its full length.
  7. Release and relax.
  8. Breathe another few deep breaths, then repeat again.

Arm Circles

  1. After stretching your whole body upwards, now it’s time to move your arms around.
  2. Hold your extended arms out to the sides at shoulder height.
  3. Breathe fully and slowly throughout this exercise.
  4. Make big, slow circles with your arms.
  5. Do ten circles in one direction, then reverse and do ten more in the other direction.
  6. Allow your shoulders to feel their whole range of motion.
  7. Relax for a few deep breaths, then go again.


  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Breathe in and out, fully and slowly.
  3. Slowly lower your body down as if you’re going to sit in a chair (stick out your butt as you go down).
  4. Your shoulders should stay directly above your feet as you lower down.
  5. Breathe in as you go down.
  6. Breathe out as you rise back up.
  7. Repeat this multiple times to get your blood flowing down through your thighs.

Forward Bends

  1. Widen your stance so that your feet are more than shoulder-width apart.
  2. Breathe in fully.
  3. As you breathe out, slowly bend forward from your hips, keeping your legs straight.
  4. Reach down toward the floor with your fingertips (it’s ok if you can’t touch the floor).
  5. Hold this forward-bent pose for a deep breath or two.
  6. When you are ready, breathe out as you slowly return to standing.
  7. Repeat this stretch a few times.
  8. You can also bend towards the side (to one side, then the other) to stretch additional core muscles.

A 5-Minute Routine for Better Health

This simple routine should only take you a few minutes to do. But it can have a big impact on your health by helping to offset the harms of sitting too much every day.

Aim to do this multiple times a day or anytime you notice you have been sitting still for an extended period.

You can also add or substitute stretches that feel good for you in that moment. Exercises like pushups, jumping jacks, or planks would also be great to do throughout the day. They’ll get your heart rate up even more and help strengthen your muscles too.

Health guidelines recommend at least 150 minutes total of physical activity every week. So, in addition to these stretches, include some other form of exercise that you enjoy to maintain your overall health and fitness.