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WFH a pain in the neck? We’ve got your back

Only got minutes to spare but heading towards a dowager's hump? We've got your back. Here's seven quick and easy exercises to keep you out of the physios.

Zoom chin, WFH hump, I’m-on-the-phone-and-getting-a-pizza-out-of-the-oven crick? How many of these working from home niggles can you tick off the list? All of them? Us too. Whether we’re hunched over the dining room table, sliding down the sofa with a laptop on our knees or hiding in the airing cupboard for the monthly meeting, our postures are suffering.

We all know about the ergonomics – knees lined up with hips, elbows lined up with wrists, monitor at eye level, support in the small of your back. But we’ve got the laptop stand and lumbar support, and we’re still suffering. The experts say it’s time to get moving.

Personal trainer and fitness expert Lucinda Newman-Jones who runs Fitness Run in the Family in Bramley, suggests dedicated movement snacks. No, that doesn’t mean you head to the kitchen for a Kit-Kat, it means you spend 10-15 minutes on dedicated movement – something like a brisk walk around the block or a short stretch sequence. (See Lucinda’s Instagram @fitnessrunsinthefamily for stretches you can easily do at home.)

Helen Barcellona, a physiotherapist and Pilates instructor at Surrey Hills Physiotherapy Health and Wellbeing in Dorking, suggests starting your day with some movement, a few stretches, a short walk or an online Pilates class. This will help your body warm up before work and be good on all levels. Helen is also a fan of making a long-term commitment to your body and posture through disciplines such as Pilates, yoga and tai chi which will focus on strength and balance, but also teach mindfulness.

Sara Rounce, a Pilates instructor at the Wellwoman Fitness Foundation in Hindhead, says it’s important to get the basics right. Pay attention to how your sitting – keep your feet flat on the ground and hip-width apart… no crossing legs! Sit with a straight back – make sure your bottom is against the back of the chair and support your back with a cushion if you need to.

So if you want to stay sane and out of the physio clinic – tempting though an hour’s peace sounds – you need to make desk these things a habit. There are even posture reminder apps you can download to give you a digital poke every hour, just search your app store.

Only got minutes to spare? We’ve got your back. Here are stretches you can do between calls, on calls and at the kettle.

90 seconds between calls

Shoulder Rotations help relieve strains of desk/laptop work and maintain posture of shoulders and chest. Place fingers lightly onto tops of shoulders. Rotate both elbows forwards in a large circle. Try to touch elbows at front of chest, brush ears, brush sides of trunk for full, expansive movement. 10 circles clockwise, then anti.


Seated Twist keeps the spine flexible and stretches muscles of back and abdomen, relieves lumbago and muscular spasms and aids digestion. With sitting bones grounded, feet flat, shoulders relaxed, draw your shoulder blades down your back ribs. Inhale as you lift up through crown. Exhale there. Take left hand to outside right knee and right hand to the back of the chair. Press through right fingertips as you inhale and lengthen the spine. Exhale to twist and gaze over the right shoulder. As you inhale, make more space between the vertebrae, as you exhale, twist and gaze back. Inhale gaze then body to centre. Repeat to the left. 


Scapula squeezes – standing, arms down by your side, draw the shoulders together, lift the chest and turn the palms to face forward.


V arm stretches over head – stand tall and draw your tummy in, lift your chest and reach your hands over head into a v shape, wide open at your hands, creating space between your shoulders and your ears (think Kate Winslet in Titanic).


Two minutes waiting for the kettle to boil

Arm circles (also called chalk circles) – sit or stand with your feet hip width apart, arms are held out straight in front in line with your shoulders, inhale and engage your core, as you exhale, lift one arm up to begin drawing a circle and as the arm brushes past your ear allow your upper body to rotate a little and take your gaze/head with the arm movement as it reaches back to complete circle to that side. This movement gently moves your shoulder into a good position (the opposite of letting it roll forward as we do at the computer). Do eight reps on this side and then repeat with the other arm to the other side of the body.


Squat with overhead reach – sit back, imagine there is a chair behind you and reach your arms up, in line with your head and ears, draw in your tummy and feel the upper back work. Hold each for 3-4 breaths.


Cow Faced Pose, also known as Gomukasana, improves posture and helps stretch pectoralis minor – a muscle which shortens when we are hunched for too long. Take a belt or scarf into your right hand and reach the arm up. Take left arm out to shoulder height and internally rotate then reach behind your back, pressing back of hand to spine. Bend right elbow allowing belt to drop into left hand. Or interlace fingers if they reach. Stretch right elbow to ceiling, draw left elbow to floor. Repeat to left.


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