The One Essential Stretch You Must Do If You Sit All Day

Updated: Mar. 20, 2023

We can’t get you a standing desk, but we can provide you with some quick back pain relief.


America, once the home of pioneers and trailblazers, has become a nation of sitters. An estimated 86 percent of U.S. workers sit all day—from 6 to 13 hours—at our jobs. And after we return to our homes, we promptly seize the opportunity …. to go and sit some more. Researchers have reported that prolonged sitting, defined as more than three hours a day, is associated with higher incidences of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, some cancers, and premature death.

At its 2013 annual meeting, the authoritative American Medical Association adopted a policy encouraging employers nationwide to invest in sitting alternatives, like standing desks or treadmill desks. But until those become as ubiquitous in workplaces as Post-it notes or bad coffee, what are us poor sedentary slobs to do?

According to Anthony Delitto, PhD, a University of Pittsburgh physical therapy professor and dean, we should all take regular breaks to perform one essential stretch. “Every hour or two … everyone should stand up and put their hands on their hips, bend backward, and repeat that five times, holding the bending position for three seconds each time,” he recommended, as reported in the Wall Street Journal. “It gets your spine in the most extended posture instead of being flexed,” he explained. “We find it helps relieve stiffness but it also helps alleviate some of that intradiscal pressure.” While you’re stretching, you could recruit your coworkers to join you. Who knows: group stretch today, standing-desk rally tomorrow? Take it a step further with these tricks to lose weight just sitting at your desk.

Plus: How to Undo the Damage From a Day of Sitting

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest