Most of us spend much of our time sitting, especially at work- whether it is in front of a computer, or commuting in the car, even the time spent sitting, looking at our phones.
This month’s article will look at different ways to improve your posture while sitting, ways to get you moving more at work in order to take pressure off your body while sitting.
Prolonged sitting is terrible for our bodies. It not only can affect our general health, with sitting being called the ‘new cancer’, but also reeks havoc to our posture. Even if all your intentions begin with sitting in a good posture, if you sit long enough, the postural muscles in your body will become fatigued.
Generally once this happens, you tend to start to ‘slide’ into a really awful posture. This posture has been given the name “Desk Jockey Posture”, as your body looks like your riding a horse. This posture is being slumped over, shoulders rounded and pulled forward, hands internally rotated, hips rolled forward, low back in a stretched position.
Our intention for this months article is to give you a few exercises and tips so that ‘Desk Jockey Posture’ doesn’t become the norm in your body.
However, it is important to understand that any exercises that we give you which involves reducing soft tissue (muscle) fatigue, must be coupled with a solid foundation in order for the exercises to be effective.
By solid foundation, we mean your skeletal system- and in particular, especially here at Spinal Symmetry, your hips and pelvis.
When your skeletal system- ie. all your joints- are working to their optimal capacity, any exercise which helps to improve muscle function will become much more effective.
The reason for this is based on the context we work from- in that ‘structure governs function’. Our muscles can only function to their full capacity when the joints are moving optimally. This is because the muscles rely on the joints of the skeletal structure to work.
Our hips and pelvis provide the foundation to our entire skeletal system, so therefore it is important that this system is working at it’s best to get the most these exercises.
These are some very easy exercises that you can do throughout the day, as well as other tips that will help to reset your body into a more neutral posture as the day goes on.
If you have any questions on these exercises, please just ask one of our practitioners.
Activities to do to break up a long day sitting:
1. Overhead Warrior Lunge
Step into a lunge stance with the hips in neutral (belt line should be flat). Squeeze the glute on the same side as the leg that’s behind you and press the hip forward. Make sure you keep the ribcage flat (bring your belly button to your spine) and reach overhead trying to pull the ribs apart.
Each reach should unlock/ expand the ribcage a bit more. Be sure not to extend from the lower back.
2. Hip Flexor Stretch
Get into a lunge stance with the hips in neutral and ribcage flat. Put pressure in the front heel, squeeze the glute on the back leg (knee on the ground), and press only the hip forward.
3. Chest Stretch
Stand in a doorway with the shoulders down (away from your ears). Hold your arms out (they can be bent at the elbow) and lean forward, keeping the ribcage flat. Think about “opening” the chest.
4. Thoracic Extensions
These can be done over a foam roller or a hard back chair that comes one half to two-thirds up the back. Sit tall, naturally arch in the lower back and lift your chest up. Place the hands behind the head or shoulders, elbows forward, and reach back over the chair or roller.
Don’t just extend the neck/look up. Keep your chin in a neutral position and extend the ribcage over the chair back or roller.
Focus on “opening” the ribs and pulling them apart. The lower back should never move.
5. Thoracic Rotations
Start in a quadruped position:
On all fours
Hands under shoulders, elbows locked.
Knees under the hips
Shoulders in the shoulder joint, chest up slightly
Place one hand behind the head, look at the elbow and rotate through the ribcage. Start elbow to elbow and rotate up as far as you can without moving from the lower back or shifting the ribcage.
Quick Tip: If the belly button moves/ rotates, you’re moving from the lower back.
6. Scapular Pinches
Sit or preferably stand tall, with the shoulders down. Pinch the shoulder blades together in the back. Hold this fully pinched position for a count of one to five and repeat.
7. Trapezius muscle stretch
Sit tall, with the hips neutral and feet flat in front. Reach a hand up over the head and gently pull the head towards the shoulder.
Don’t yank on your head, that could cause injury. The hand isn’t pulling on the head, it’s just assisting gravity. With your other hand hold onto the under part of the chair to stop your shoulders lifting up. Do this 1–3 times for 30–60 seconds at a time.
8. Levator scapular stretch
Set up the same as the Trap Stretch, but instead of facing forward, look at the armpit of the raised arm and gently pull the head in that direction. 1–3 times for 30–60 seconds at a time.
9. Glute Bridge
Lay on your back; bring the feet up so that when the hips are fully extended (up) the knees will be a at ninety degrees. Keep the ribcage down, drive through the heels, squeeze the glutes hard and press the hips into full extension. Hold the top, really focusing on a hard squeeze, and return to the starting position.
A lot of hip and low back pain is the result of weak, underactive glutes, and sitting all day in Desk Jockey Posture essentially shuts your glutes down completely. Simply performing a few glute bridges can not only keep them from shutting down completely, but these may help take pressure off the sacrum and alleviate some hip and lower back pain.
Be sure to focus on using the glutes and shutting down the hamstrings.
Activities with a few simple tools:
Stress ball or hand gripper: These are great to squeeze while at your desk. Not only will they get blood flowing through your hands and arms, they will help stop repetitive strain to your wrist which can cause carpal tunnel from using the mouse all day.
Stability Ball: This ball is great to sit on to break up your day sitting on a chair all day. You can also bounce up on it which turns on a lot of the postural muscles that have gone to sleep from sitting all day. You also get a core workout while working by sitting on the ball.
Squash ball/lacrosse ball/hard rubber ball:These are great because they are so versatile. You can use it to roll your feet on to massage your plantar fascia, you can use it to massage your forearms to stop tension building up from typing all day. You can sit on to work on trigger points in your glutes or piriformis, you can lean on them against your chair or wall to help release a rib, low back muscles or back of shoulder muscles. The options are endless.
Other good tips and habits to do throughout the day
Take Breaks:It’s important to get up and move around to help your body break the cycle of bad posture you have been in. Moving around also ensures blood circulation to your whole body to get the nutrients they need. You might find that you will be more productive if you regularly take breaks and move.
Avoid eyestrain:Firstly try and set up your computer as far away from you as possible. Then, when not looking at the screen, focus on things on the other side of the room, this gives your eyes some time to rest and reset after looking at a screen all day. Get outside in your lunch break and have some natural light instead of the artificial that will be straining your eyes all day in the office.
Take a few deep breaths:This will not only help your whole body by getting some more oxygen in but will also calm your nervous system to help with stress, will activate your diaphragmand abdomen muscles that will most likely be turned off from sitting too long, and will also get your rib cage moving taking strain off your back.
Have a bottle of water by your side:If you make it a habit to continually sip water throughout the day you will not only easily reach your need to have 2 liters a day of water intake but it will force you to take breaks to go fill your bottle up and also go to the toilet.