Working in the service industry can be really tough on your body. You’re working odd hours, you’re on your feet all day, and you’re lifting, bending, carrying and straining almost continuously.
In terms of occupational health and safety, hospitality workers are considered more vulnerable than many other workers. According to WorkSafe Victoria, the most common injuries in hospitality occur in the hands and fingers (35%), the back (16%), and the forearm or wrist (11%).
Doing stretches before or after work every day can help prevent these injuries. Here are 5 of the best stretches recommended by health and wellness experts.
To Exercise Your Hands and Wrists
The Tendon Glide
Recommended by: Harvard Medical School
Hospitality workers complete a lot of repetitive tasks with their hands and wrists, like carrying heavy plates and shaking cocktail mixers. Doing general hand stretches can help prevent pain. Here’s one easy-to-do hand exercise called a hand/finger tendon glide.
- Step 1: Start with your fingers extended straight out.
- Step 2: Make a hook fist and hold this position before returning to a straight hand.
- Step 3: Make a full fist and hold this position before returning to a straight hand.
- Step 4: Bend your fingers forward, so your hand is in the shape of a sideways L. Hold this position before returning to a straight hand.
- Step 5: Bend your fingers so that the tops are resting on your palm. Hold this position before returning to a straight hand.
Hold these positions for 5–10 seconds each. Harvard Medical School suggests doing 10 repetitions at a time, three times a day.
To Exercise Your Back
Recommended by: Everyday Health
Back pain is a big issue for servers who are standing on their feet for hours. Child’s Pose is a good yoga position for relieving back pain and for de-stressing after a tiring day at work.
- Step 1: Get down on all fours and stretch your arms straight out in front of you.
- Step 2: Sit back so your buttocks are just above (but not touching) your heels, and your forehead is touching the floor.
Hold this position for a minute, and breathe softly. Repeat as many times as needed.
To Exercise Your Knees
Straight Leg Raises
Recommended by: Jen Mueller, certified personal trainer
Hospitality workers typically get knee strain due to heavy lifting. But you can help prevent this by strengthening the muscles around your knee joints. Try this exercise recommended by Jen Mueller, a certified personal trainer.
She recommends rotating between three different knee stretching exercises and three different knee strengthening exercise 3-4 times a week, so check out her other exercises for further ideas.
- Step 1: Sit in a chair, and rest one foot on another chair.
- Step 2: Lift your foot a few inches off the chair while keeping your leg straight.
- Step 3: Hold for 5-10 seconds and then return to your resting position.
Repeat this with both legs for 5-10 minutes, and work at increasing the time you hold up your leg if you can (aiming for 2-3 minutes as an eventual goal).
To Exercise Your Shoulders
Cow Face Pose
Recommended by: Maryann Berry, fitness coach
Shoulder pain can develop in a lot of ways, though the most common cause for hospitality workers is likely repetitive movement and poor posture. A simple, quick shoulder strengthening exercise is a yoga stretch called the Cow Face Pose. It helps correct your posture and bolster your spine.
- Step 1: Stand with your feet hip-width apart.
- Step 2: Reach your left arm straight to the ceiling, and then bend your elbow and reach your arm behind your back to meet your right hand. Interlink your fingers.
Hold this pose for one minute, and then repeat the exercise on your other side. If you have tight shoulders, it’s recommended that you hold a strap between your hands instead of trying to hook your fingers together.
To Exercise Your Legs
Recommended by: Melissa West, yoga teacher
A simple yoga position called Viparita Karani (or the Legs-Up-The-Wall Pose) can help relieve tired legs and feet after standing all day – not to mention pain in your lower back. It involves rolling up two thick blankets, placing one under your hips and one under your head, and resting the backs of your legs vertically against a wall.
- Step 1: Find a position that puts your body at a comfortable distance from the wall.
- Step 2: Place one rolled blanket about 30cm from the wall (to support your hips), and the other about 90cm from the wall (to support your head).
- Step 3: Sit side-on on the closer blanket so that your right side is near the wall. Place your left elbow on the floor and swing your legs up the wall. You should end up lying on the floor with your legs vertically up the wall. Rest your arms by your sides.
Stay in this position for 5-15 minutes (even 1-2 minutes can be enough). Having your legs elevated like this helps drain tension and fluids that might have built up during the day.
Remember to be aware of your body’s limitations before attempting any of these stretches. You don’t want to push yourself and cause further injury.
And if you’re experiencing numbness or pain that won’t go away, seek the advice of a medical professional. It’s much better to get these problems treated early than to suffer in silence!