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Wellness: Flexibility in the Workplace

Flexibility programs in the workplace are steadily gaining popularity. Organizations that implement a stretching regimen into their daily work practices can see reductions in work injuries and their related costs, improvement in worker morale and a reduction in disability costs. Increased flexibility can help many employees avoid injury and pain. Stretching counteracts the shortening of muscles that occurs during repetitive tasks or exercises. Stretching also provides blood and nutrients to working muscles and tissues throughout the workday to prevent fatigue, discomfort and musculoskeletal disorders. Additionally, it stimulates fluid formation in joints, reducing stiffness and pain that might otherwise develop. We experience a gradual loss of flexibility as we age; however, it's never too late to start a stretching program to improve it.

Benefits of Stretching

Flexibility reduces risk of injury by:

  • Releasing muscle tension and soreness
  • Decreasing joint pain and stress
  • Reducing risk of injury
  • Preparing the muscles for more vigorous activities
  • Increasing the range of motion in joints
  • Improving balance, stability, posture and circulation

Using a Workplace Flexibility Program

A five-minute prework stretching program is an easy way to introduce this wellness benefit to your employees. By providing a set time for employees to stretch, you will increase participation. A flexibility program in the workplace might also include periodic stretching during a shift. Workers should focus on stretching the neck, shoulders, mid and lower back, hips, elbows, forearms and wrists. For examples of stretches, take a look at EMC's Stretching in the Workplace booklet. It contains photos and instructions for a variety of full-body stretches.

Stretching Technique

  • Warm up muscles before stretching by doing a low-intensity activity, such as walking or marching in place, for at least five minutes.
  • Ease into each stretch. Movements should not be quick or sudden.
  • Take a deep breath and slowly exhale as you gently stretch a muscle to the point of tension.
  • Hold each stretch for 30 seconds. You should feel a pull in the area you are stretching, but you should not feel sharp pain.
  • Relax and repeat the stretch two to four more times.
  • Stretch both sides. Use the same stretches for the same amount of time on each side of your body.
  • Stretch at least two to three days per week.

When stretching, avoid:

  • Bouncing as you stretch—this can cause injury.
  • Stretching a muscle that is not warmed up.
  • Straining or pushing a muscle too far. If you feel pain, ease up on the stretch.
  • Holding your breath during the stretch.
  • Stretching an injured muscle or joint.

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