Seven Essential Mobility Drills for Those Who Stand at Work

On your feet all day? Take a load off...

If you don't sit most of the day at work, chances are you may stand for a majority of your work day. Even if you work behind a computer, you may now have a standing desk because you may have heard that sitting is the new smoking. Thing is, the real issue is just being stationary, not only sedentary. And even you nurses, doctors, moms, trainers, and laborers who are moving, but are on your feet all day will feel it after a long shift. So if you stand (whether at a desk or moving around) for most of the day, there are still some aches and pains, and areas of stiffness, that you may feel after a long day.

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Standing seems easy, but it can be tough on the body. The effects of gravity will compress your spine, if your deep core isn't functioning optimally your spinal extensors and iliopsoas will become overworked leading to more compression on your spine, and all of that weight and pressure on your feet can wreak havoc from the ground up. Read on for what you can do to counteract these side effects of standing for hours on end, day in and day out.

As always, with any exercise routine, make sure you have been cleared by your doctor to perform these activities, listen to your body, and modify as needed to prevent injury. If you do experience pain or have any health issues during the activity, stop the movement and follow up with your doctor. These drills should not lead to muscle soreness, but your joints and muscles may feel stiff so be careful at your end range especially with the first rep of each drill. If discomfort is severe or lingers, be sure to follow up with your doctor.

While these seven mobility drills are simple, remember that simple does not necessarily mean easy. Each of our bodies have been through different things in our lifetimes and each of our skeleton's are slightly different so always listen to how each exercise feels for you and modify as needed. Nonetheless, our bodies are amazing machines and we can get many benefits from moving our body through full ranges of motion. Love, listen, and give back to your body and it will continue to do some pretty amazing things day in and day out in return.

1. Child's Pose

Modified Child's Pose with blanket behind the knees

  • keep big toes together and allow knees to be as wide as feels comfortable
  • allow your arms and shoulders to feel comfortable with arms long or elbows bent with arms overhead or arms along side the body with palms up
  • let hips settle towards heels (use a rolled blanket behind your knees if your hips or knees are painful) and let your head rest on the ground or a block to completely decompress the spine
  • if your ankles are tight, roll your mat or a towel to place it under your ankles
  • breathe deep and slow
  • stay here for 1-10 minutes

2. Standing Side Stretch

Try not to crunch side closer to wall

  • stand tall about 12-18" away from the wall
  • cross your foot away from the wall behind your foot closer to the wall
  • let your arm closer to the wall gently touch the wall for support and let your arm away from the wall reach up and overhead
  • try to keep your torso perpendicular to the wall and if it feels okay let your gaze go up to your top elbow
  • breathe into the top side of your body for 3-5 breaths

3. Foot Release 

  • stand or sit comfortably and release one foot at a time
  • use a tennis ball, lacrosse ball or small bouncy ball to scribble around your foot and release
  • do this for 1-2 minutes

4. All 4's Thoracic Rotation (Thread the Needle)

Inhale and rotate up

Exhale and rotate down

  • on hands and knees with knees under hips and wrists under shoulders
  • on your inhale, reach one hand up rotating from your upper back - keep the weight on your knees even, trying not to sway your hips to the side
  • on your exhale, rotate the hand down and reach it through the space that your opposite arm and thigh make, like you're threading a needle; your grounded arm should bend here
  • continue with your breath 5-8x, then switch sides

5. All 4's Rocking to Sitting on Heels

All 4's with toes tucked

Rocking back as far as feels comfortable

  • starting in the same position on hands and knees, tuck your toes under keeping your heels vertical
  • press your hips back toward your heels with your back flat and tailbone lifting (different than child's pose), only go as far as feel comfortable for your feet, knees, hips, shoulders
  • rock forward back to your start position then repeat 5-10x

6. Downward Facing Dog

Rock weight back with knees lifted

Then lift to a shortened version of Downward Facing Dog

  • listen to how your body feels as this requires full shoulder range of motion and adequate back body length (spinal extensors, glutes, hamstrings, calves)
  • start in your all 4's position with your toes tucked
  • on an exhale, engage your core and lift your knees slightly, then rock your weight back and lift your hips high while you straighten your legs (only straighten your legs as far as you can without rounding your low back)
  • stay here for 1-5 breaths

7. Legs Up the Wall

Close your eyes for more relaxation

  • sitting sideways, get as close to the wall as you can
  • rotate your body so your legs go up the wall and you lay flat on your back
  • adjust in or out as needed to feel comfortable, your hip flexors should feel soft on the front of your hips and your hamstrings should feel a gentle stretch without rounding your low back and lifting your tailbone
  • let your arms relax where ever feels good
  • close your eyes, breathe deep and slow and stay here for 1-10 minutes

These mobility drills target the areas of our bodies that get overworked and tight after standing for hours on end -- your whole spine, feet, and sides of your waist especially. You may have heard sitting is the new smoking, but standing for hours on end can be quite taxing on your body as well, so do what you can to unwind, release and lengthen with these simple mobility drills.

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