Anyone who has ever spent a lot of time sitting at a desk – or hunched over their phone or iPad – knows the aches and pains of sitting for too long.
Here’s the thing, though. The dangers of sitting all day extend far beyond just shuffling around for the first few minutes after you stand up.
If you don’t take a few precautions, it can have a long-term effect on your posture that even has its own scary-sounding name: kyphosis.
Kyphosis: when you develop posture that leads to a forward head, rounded shoulders, back pain, muscle stiffness, and pain in your neck. It can even affect muscles around your hips and glutes.
I’ve got some strategies that can help you avoid all of that – because preventing kyphosis is so much easier than fixing it.
The most important thing is to do these exercises consistently – a couple of times a day if possible. Set a timer and make it a non-negotiable.
You can do these stretches at your desk – or if you don’t feel comfortable doing them in the middle of your workplace, find a more private spot in the lunch room, or even the bathroom.
If you spend a lot of time keyboarding, this is one you can’t miss. If this exercise causes pain, start slow and build up to it. (Note, if you regularly train your chest and shoulders with heavy weights, this one if good for you, too!)
- Stand tall at the edge of your desk. Place your fingers on the edge of your desk so that your fingers are facing you, your forearms are facing away. (Palms are NOT touching the desk yet.)
- Being careful not to lock your elbows, with good posture slowly start to lean forward and drop your palms to the surface of the desk. You should feel a stretch along your forearms and wrist. If this causes pain, back off a little.
- Hold for 20-30 seconds. Do this one to three times.
- Stand behind your desk, your right hand on your chair for balance.
- Bend your left knee and grip your left ankle behind you with your left hand, slowly bringing your heel up toward your left glute muscle.
- Tighten your glute muscles so you don’t arch your back – this also will intensify the stretch.
- Try to bring your knees together while maintaining an upright posture, and hold the stretch for 30 seconds. Repeat on the other side.
- Sit tall in your chair, both feet flat on the floor.
- Keeping your right foot on the floor, bend your left knee and place your left ankle on your right thigh, just above the knee, so that your legs form the top of the number 4.
- Remain sitting tall as you keep your left foot flexed, and slowly press your left knee gently downward, feeling a stretch in the outer part of your left hip. You can lean forward gently for a little more intensity. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat on the other side.
Upper Body Stretch
This one will have your coworkers wondering what you’re doing, but it’ll feel so good you won’t care!
- Standing tall, abs braced, perform a hip hinge (bending from the hips, not the waist) so that your upper body bends forward, toward your thighs. Let your arms hang in front of you as you relax to feel a stretch in your hamstring muscles.
- Take a few deep breaths and re-engage your abs, standing tall as you reach your arms out to your sides until they are shoulder height. As you do this, rotate your thumbs backward so your palms face up.
- As you feel the front part of your body stretch, tighten your glutes to protect your back and imagine your thumbs pointing at each other behind you. Stop if you feel pain, but you should feel the muscles of your upper back “pinch” together.
- Hold for a few breaths, and repeat this exercise 5 times.
Hope these help! Consistency is the key…
These stretches really will help you with your posture – they’ll also help you to burn a few extra calories during an otherwise sedentary work day.
Over time, you will notice that it becomes easier to sit tall throughout the day, and nagging pains may go away!
Resistance training also helps. Keeping a strong back, core and shoulders will help you avoid posture issues as you get older.