"If I only had five minutes in between meetings to mobilize my upper body, here’s what I’d do": A strength coach shares four essential moves for desk workers

Reduce the damage of prolonged sitting with these four moves

A woman doing superman stretch exercise on a yoga mat in a brightly lit room
(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you’ve been stuck at your desk all day and everything feels sore and tight, you may only need five minutes to relieve your achy muscles.

The mechanics of sitting increase muscle stiffness and put pressure on the spine, shoulders, and back. This quick and easy routine, created by strength and mobility coach Charlotte Hazelwood, shows you how to mobilize the upper body and reduce the stiffness associated with prolonged sitting.

Hazelwood, who is the founder of Elevate Fitness, says: "If I only had five minutes in between meetings to mobilize my upper body, here’s what I’d do: swimmers, to activate the upper back; scorpions, because I love how they open up the chest; scapular rotations, to get the shoulder blades moving and grooving, and wrist walk-arounds, to build some rotation back into the joints."

Watch her video below to learn how to do the moves. You don't need much equipment for the routine, but having a cheap yoga mat to hand (like this $20 Amazon Basics option) can make you more comfortable during some of the stretches.

How to do Charlotte Hazelwood's five-minute upper-body mobility routine

Benefits of regular movement throughout the day

Humans aren’t designed to sit for eight-plus hours a day. Doing so can increase pain and stiffness, as your muscles are forced to hold the same position for a long time. Muscles like the quads, hamstrings, and glutes in the lower body can also become weaker if they’re not regularly engaged.

The best way to combat this is with frequent movement, like desk stretches, short walks, or exercise-snacking workouts. Try doing a combination of these activities throughout your working day, to help maintain your mobility, functional strength and cardio fitness.

Regular movement could also help you avoid the risks associated with a lack of physical activity, which include an increase risk of heart disease, diabetes and cancer, according to the World Health Organization.

Looking to upgrade your home workout equipment? Our guide to the best yoga mats can help

Maddy Biddulph

Maddy Biddulph is a freelance journalist specializing in fitness, health and wellbeing content. With 26 years in consumer media, she has worked as a writer and editor for some of the bestselling newspapers, magazines and websites in the US and UK. 

She is also a qualified L3 personal trainer and weight loss advisor, and helps women over 40 navigate menopause by improving their physical and mental strength. At Maddy Biddulph Personal Training, she runs one-to-one and small group training for menopausal women who want to get fit to ease symptoms and feel like themselves again.