A Pilates instructor says these are the three stretches you should do at the end of the working day, so I put them to the test

Relieve muscle tension in the upper body, lower back and hips with these moves

A woman doing yoga child's pose in a room lined with leafy plants
(Image credit: Getty Images)

I work a desk job so I spend most of my days sitting down, hunched over my laptop. And it won't come as a surprise to anyone that this isn't good for the body.

Spending a lot of time sitting down can weaken the glutes and core. It can also lead to stiffness, aches and pains, particularly around the lower back and upper body.

I'm always looking for ways to offset the damage of my desk job and I recently came across a simple stretching routine on Instagram. Gemma Folkard, the founder of Shape Pilates, shared some stretches that she recommends desk job workers do at the end of the day to help improve their posture.

After around eight hours sitting at my desk—apart from a quick walk at lunchtime—I was craving some movement. I was also looking forward to seeing if this routine could provide any immediate relief to my stiff shoulders and back.

How to do Gemma Folkard's stretching routine

A post shared by Gemma Folkard | Shape Pilates

A photo posted by shape_pilates on

You won't need any equipment for these stretches and the routine should only take a few minutes.

However, I rolled out my exercise mat for some extra support for my knees as the moves were done from a kneeling position. If you want something cheap and supportive to keep you comfortable during this routine, try something like this quarter-inch thick Pilates mat from Merrithew, which is 25% off at Amazon right now.

My experience trying Gemma Folkard's stretching routine

I try to do yoga once a week, so I'm familiar with spinal postures and stretches that Folkard used in her routine but her variations were new to me.

We started with a child's pose, but rather than holding it passively, Folkard's variation challenged me to move in and out of it, rounding my back as I did so.

As soon as my back was in that rounded position, I realized I was holding even more tension in my upper back and shoulders than I had thought. But I felt that tension slowly releasing by moving through the stretch six times, as Folkard suggested.

The next move was a twist. Again, this helped to open up my shoulders, but I also felt it in my obliques (the muscles down the side of the abdomen) and it was good to feel my core switch on after a day spent mostly sitting down.

The final stretch was my favorite, opening up the hips, which, along with my upper body, is an area of my body that is the most stiff.

I felt physically more relaxed after doing this routine and even though it only took a few minutes, it put me in the mood to do some more movement, so I tagged on some additional stretching exercises.

I'll come back to this routine as a quick way to reset my body and mind after work and I'd recommend it to anyone who, like me, spends most of their days sitting down.

Alice Porter
Freelancer Writer

Alice Porter is a freelance journalist covering lifestyle topics including health, fitness and wellness. She is particularly interested in women's health, strength training and fitness trends and writes for publications including Stylist Magazine, Refinery29, The Independent and Glamour Magazine. Like many other people, Alice's personal interest in combining HIIT training with strength work quickly turned into a CrossFit obsession and she trains at a box in south London. When she's not throwing weights around or attempting handstand push-ups, you can probably find her on long walks in nature, buried in a book or hopping on a flight to just about anywhere it will take her.