Working from bed? Try these stretches to see off aches and pains

Working on a laptop in bed all day can be ruinous for your shoulders, back and overall wellbeing. “Your back won’t be supported very well,” says Fiona Houston, a physiotherapist and the founder of Physio Inverness. “It will be slumped. Plus, if your legs are stretched out in front of you, you’ll be putting strain through your nervous system.” She explains that this runs from your brain to your spinal cord, all the way to your toes. “By sitting in bed with your legs out in front of you, and your head tilting downwards, at a laptop screen, you’re stretching that system continuously. It’s actually one of the things we would ask our clients about, to see if people are likely to have issues with their nerves.”

Houston advises a mixture of stretches for your back. “Sit on a chair and rotate your shoulders forwards and backwards,” she says. “Yoga poses such as the child’s pose (where you sit on your heels and push your shoulders to the ground, head facing the floor) or the cobra pose (where you lie on your front, hands and legs flat on the floor, and arch your head and shoulders off the ground) will help your joints move. These stretches are quick and easy to do, and easy to access online.”

The personal trainer Lavina Mehta urges at-home workers to snatch moments to get active during interminable Zoom calls. “If you can switch off your camera,” she says, “do a quick three-minute workout while you’re on the call.” To loosen up tense shoulders, grab a resistance band or an old pair of tights, and practise shoulder flossing: hold the band or tights loosely between both hands, and raise your arms to the ceiling, while maintaining tension in the fabric. Now bring the band down, so your palms face your thighs, and then raise your hands up, back over your head, and bring them down again, so they’re parallel with your bum. Your neck will thank you for it. Mahta says: “I say to everyone, shoulder floss every day, just like you should floss your teeth every day. Set an alarm every day, so you don’t forget.”

If you are stuck in bed and feeling stiff, get on all fours and “do a cat cow,” says Mehta. “This is brilliant when you’ve been hunched over for ages. Tuck your tailbone towards your chest, then do the opposing movement, and lift up through the chin, to get a stretch coming all the way to your belly button.” She’s also a fan of the perennial yoga favourite, the downwards dog, to get the blood flowing again.

When you work from bed all day, your body rapidly loses muscle mass. “Within just a few days of bed rest,” says Houston, “even a young, fit person will lose muscle strength very quickly.” She advises that people working from bed attempt to factor some strength training into their workouts. Not with weights, necessarily – they’re harder to get hold of than a Covid vaccine, with most dumbbells out of stock online since the first lockdown in March. “Bodyweight exercises are great,” says Houston. “Squats, press-ups or even dead-lifts with a rolled-up towel work well, to help stretch out the lower back.”

Mehta is also a fan of body weight training: she suggests holding a plank for as long as you can bear, tricep dips on the back of a chair, and walking lunges, and glute bridges, where you lie on the floor, palms flat on the ground, knees slightly bent, and push your hips up towards the ceiling. “Glute bridges and tricep dips are great,” Mehta says, “because they’re really going to strengthen your glutes and your back.”

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