Office ergonomics frequently asked questions

Frequently Asked Questions: Workplace Stretching Programs

What is a workplace stretching program? 

A workplace stretching program, sometimes referred to as Stretch-and-Flex, is an ongoing stretching routine performed by employees. Such programs are intended to prevent and/or reduce the severity of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), or soft tissue injuries such as low back pain, tendonitis, or rotator cuff tears. 

Most workplace stretching programs involve static stretching of specific muscle groups for a short period of time (e.g. 5 – 10 different muscle group stretches, holding each stretch for 10 – 30 seconds) and are usually performed before a shift or after a break. Routines can be performed as a group, following a leader, or on an individual basis as needed throughout the shift. Most programs are voluntary, meaning employees have the choice of whether to participate or not.

Are workplace stretching programs effective at preventing MSDs?

Although anecdotally employers have reported their stretching programs prevented MSDs, there is little to no scientific evidence that workplace stretching programs are effective at preventing soft tissue injuries. A 2017 review1 of 20 published research articles on workplace stretching found evidence supporting the effectiveness of stretching to improve flexibility and joint range of motion, but no evidence that stretching alone prevents work-related MSDs. However, studies have suggested that weight training, conditioning and warm-up activities can be beneficial for prevention of MSDs.

So what can be done to prevent these injuries?

The best approach is to address the underlying causes of the injury risk factors, such as heavy and/or repetitive lifting, repetitive work involving forceful exertions, or working in awkward postures for long periods. Finding and fixing the source is the only way to reduce or eliminate risk factor exposure. 

The hierarchy of controls from the National Institutes of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) provides a structure for the finding and fixing described above. Following this hierarchy normally leads to the implementation of inherently safer systems, where the risk of illness or injury has been substantially reduced. The idea behind this hierarchy is that the control methods at the top of the graphic (elimination and substitution) are potentially more effective and protective than those at the bottom (administrative and PPE). Those at the top (elimination/substitution) also require less supervision/enforcement to implement. 

What are some examples of how controls prevent MSDs?

Providing a mechanical assist to handle heavy, awkward materials or using conveyor belts to move materials instead of manually lifting or carrying are two examples of engineering controls that eliminate exposure to the risk factors. Administrative controls such as short recovery breaks called microbreaks can reduce fatigue and the risk of MSDs. 

What is a microbreak?

As the name implies, these breaks tend to be shorter and more frequent (1-2 minute breaks every 15 minutes) compared to a five-minute break every 2.5 hours. A 2023 published study5 found that a microbreak of just one-minute every 10–20 minutes when performing a repetitive lifting task significantly reduced muscle fatigue without impacting productivity. 

The study also compared a one-minute recovery break to one-minute of stretching and found that stretching did not significantly reduce fatigue. Incorporating short microbreaks into jobs that require repetitive manual material handling is a simple and effective control measure that should not reduce productivity when implemented correctly. 

Is there any benefit to having a pre-work activity like stretching?

It appears that the anecdotal support for the benefits of a stretching program are more likely related to the psychological component of group stretching. Studies2,3,4 used surveys completed by managers working for construction firms with stretching programs and found that employees benefited mostly from team building, communication, morale, and safety planning. Managers also reported that team leads could sometimes identify when an employee was having difficulty performing a stretch or showing obvious discomfort as an opportunity to have a conversation with the employee regarding their current abilities.

What if my boss insists that we have a stretching program?

Research suggests that a dynamic warmup is more effective at preparing the body for activity and preventing injuries than static stretching.  Warmup activities are intended to prime the body for physical activity, gradually but consistently moving a person from a resting state into activity, and increasing blood flow to working muscle groups to increase muscle temperature, tissue elasticity and oxygen delivery. Incorporating a dynamic warmup routine before work or after breaks may reduce the risk of soft tissue injury while promoting the workforce benefits described above. A dynamic warmup program is one component of an effective program for preventing workplace MSDs. It is not a stand-alone solution.

How can Pinnacol help me make improvements at my workplace?

Policyholders have access to a dedicated safety consultant, to advise and support workplace safety efforts. Pinnacol also has ergonomic specialists to assist with workplace assessments and controls, and tactical fitness experts to help with warmup design.

Click here to learn more and contact your safety consultant.

What other resources are available?

Visit to see all of the workplace safety materials that Pinnacol offers.  



1Gasibat, Q, Simbak NB, Abd Aziz A (2017) Stretching Exercises to Prevent Work-related Musculoskeletal Disorders – A Review Article. American Journal of Sports Science and Medicine, 2017, Vol. 5, No. 2, 27-37.

2Choi, Sang D., Rajendran, S., and Ahn, K. (2017). Stretch & Flex Programs. Effects on the Reduction of Musculoskeletal Disorders & Injuries. Professional Safety. May 2017, 38-43.

3Choi, S.D. & Rajendran, S. (2014). Construction workers’ perception of stretch and flex program effectiveness in preventing work-related musculoskeletal disorders. Proceedings of The XXVI Annual Occupational Ergonomics and Safety Conference, El Paso, TX,19-25.

4Graham, D. (2013). Workplace Stretching Programs: Do They Work and Are They Worth The Cost?" EHS Today,

5Beltran Martinez, K., Nazarahari, M., Rouhani, H. (2023). Breaking the Fatigue Cycle: Investigating the Effect of Work-Rest Schedules on Muscle Fatigue in Material Handling Jobs. Sensors 2023, 23, 9670.