Utility work can be a physically demanding job. It frequently requires some workers to spend considerable time in awkward postures. Athletes need to warm up before the
start of a workout or competition, and so do utility workers. This includes office staff as well
as field workers! Through stretching you can prepare your muscles to handle the load and
possibly prevent the more frequent forms of work injury: sprains and strains.
Before the start of your shift, or before heading out to the field, take a few moments to
stretch. A few simple movements help increase circulation and reduce fatigue—plus you
might even become more relaxed! A stretch break any time during the day will also help
you feel better and work better.
A flexible body is crucial for physical activity—whether it’s for sports or for work. Stretching
increases flexibility, minimizes the chances of pulling or tearing muscles, and improves
performance. A flexible muscle can react and contract faster, and with more force. Flexibility
also increases agility and balance.
Here are a few tips to help you get the most out of stretching and exercise:
■ Start out easy. If you haven’t been regularly exercising, don’t try to do too much in the
■ Stretch regularly. Make it a routine at the beginning of every work shift.
■ The warm-up should not be painful, but you should definitely feel the stretching and
the working of all the muscles and joints.
■ Hold each stretch for 10 seconds. Do not bounce. Breathe normally during the
Here are some easy stretching exercises:
■ Neck rotation: Turn your head to the side, stretching your chin toward your shoulder.
Turn head back to center and repeat to the other side. Increase the range of the stretch
by dropping the opposite shoulder. See if you can lower your head further.
■ Shoulder stretch: Stand with feet shoulder-width apart. Raise one arm overhead and
stretch as far as you can without bending the torso. Repeat with opposite arm.
■ Forearm stretch: Extend your right arm straight out in front of you, palm downward.
With the left hand, grasp the fingers of the right hand and pull back gently, stretching
the wrist and forearm. Repeat with the left arm.
■ Tricep stretch: Raise one arm straight up, so your upper arm is near your ear. Bend
your arm at the elbow and let your hand fall to the back of your neck. With the other
arm, reach behind your head and place your hand on top of the bent elbow. Gently pull
down and back on the elbow. Repeat with other arm.
■ Trunk stretch: Stand with your feet a little more than shoulder-width apart. Reach your
left arm overhead and bend to the right at the waist. Repeat on the opposite side.
■ Torso twist: Stand at arm’s length from the wall, with the wall at your side. Reach
one arm out and place your hand on the wall. Reach the other arm around the body,
stretching the hand to the wall. Repeat on opposite side.
Pain and discomfort probably mean you did too much. Back off a little, and if pain persists,
check with your doctor.
For more information see Mayo Clinic’s websites on stretching: www.mayoclinic.com/
health/stretching/WL00030 and www.mayoclinic.com/health/stretching/SM00043.
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