I think we already knew this but as it turns out, sitting in a chair staring at a computer all day isn’t so great for you. But as we know, this is the truth for so many people in jobs that are online based or require a lot of online communication. Now, with the realities of Covid-19 over this past year and a half, we find many people still working from home in makeshift offices, likely not ergonomically set up for success and quite possibly exacerbating any preexisting issues that were previously kept in check by consistent workouts, yoga, massage/chiro/osteo and possibly now presenting new postural aggravation with the change in office set up.
Unfortunately, unless you have the option of a standing desk, you don’t really have much of a choice but to sit at your desk for your work day. The number one way to mitigate health risks associated with excessive sitting? Take breaks! Get up and get moving. Spend your breaks walking or stretching and get the blood pumping and oxygenate those muscles, especially the brain! Lucky enough to have a sit/stand desk? Split your time between sitting and standing and still take breaks to walk/stretch a little!
Set a timer and get up every hour and move. Add in some simple stretches before sitting back down to that desk! See if you can better manage the ergonomic set up of your space to offset the impact of prolonged sitting. Add 25-30 minutes of moderate activity after work each day and try to find time to socialize outside of the computer, plan a porch hello on your walk:)
Here are some quick stretches specific to the areas excessive sitting/desk work can affect. Stretching is best done warmed up, after a walk, shower or light workout, but can be gently done through the day so long as you don’t overstretch! Best to lean into a stretch until you feel the end range, and hold there with gentle pressure for a minimum of 30 seconds.
1. Pectoralis stretch: Important because often as we sit in imperfect states for prolonged periods of time, our shoulders roll forward and our pec muscles become shortened and contracted. Minding our posture, keeping our shoulders back, strengthening through our mid back and adding in consistent pec stretches can help those rounded shoulders!
How: Stand parallel to a door way or wall and with your arm at 90 degrees on the wall, gently step forward with the leg closest to the wall being mindful to keep your torso from rotating. You may get a little movement or a lot depending on your flexibility! You should’ve feel a gentle stretch from your upper chest to the front of the shoulder. Don’t continue if there is pain beyond a gentle stretch sensation. Hold for 30 seconds or more. Step back and move the arm further up the wall to create a higher angle and repeat stepping forward and holding, maintaining a forward facing torso.
2. Upper trapezius & Levator Scapulae: Important because as we sit for prolonged periods of time at non-ergonomic work stations AND when we add stress into the mix, we often creep our shoulders up towards our ears and don’t even realize it! This engages the upper trap and levator scap muscles. It often happens when we are so hyper focused on a task we don’t realize how it is affecting our posture! Time to stretch this and avoid increased forward head posture and headaches!
How: To stretch these tight muscles you want to sit up straight in your chair and tuck your hand under your leg (on the side you are stretching). Side flex (with no rotation) your ear towards the opposite shoulder (ie: if you’re tucking and stretching on the right side, your ear is going towards your left shoulder). Take nice deep diaphragmatic breaths and hold in a gentle stretch for at least 30 seconds. Gently release and repeat on the other side. Add to this by dipping your chin slowly towards your chest while head is still flexed to the side, and then rotating up, nose to the sky. Feel the change in the focus areas of stretch. To focus more on the Levator Scapulae, while head is flexed to the side with no rotation up or down, bring the opposite arm up, flexed and elbow to the sky, hand reaching back to the shoulder.
3. Rotator cuff: Important because we are often sitting with forward rounded shoulders at desks (or tables), too high or low or with keyboards in awkward places. Side sleepers without enough pillowing can also find their shoulders round in and can cause impingement and discomfort. Let’s work to both strengthen and release this “cuff” of 4 very important shoulder stabilizers; supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor and supscapularis.
How to strengthen: Lie flat on your back with arms and legs extended, either on the floor on a mat or on the bed wherever most comfortable. Extend one arm straight towards the ceiling and push it up toward the ceiling until the shoulder blade lifts off the surface (where possible). Hold for 5 seconds and release. Repeat other side and do this multiple times. (Image 1)
How to release: Try pendulum swings. From a standing position, lean forward using a chair or table to stabilize as necessary with opposite arm, while letting one arm hang freely and swing back and forth as well as in a circular pattern for 30 seconds or more, letting gravity do the work! Slowly, with assistance as needed, return to standing and repeat on the other side.
4. Hip Flexors: Prolonged sitting causes your hip flexors to be in a shortened position for extended periods of time. To maintain flexibility and ROM take some time away from the desk to walk it out and then stretch. It is always best to stretch in as passive a way as possible…. using as little of your body to stretch as necessary… ie; if you use your arms to pull your leg, that may be unnecessary and look for ways you can stretch your leg without involving your arms!
How: On the floor with pillowing under the knee if needed for comfort and using a chair seat for support, have one knee down and the other in front with foot flat on the floor (knees should be bent at 90 degrees, one up in front, the other down on the floor behind). Hips should stay facing forward, not rotated, torso upright. Tuck the pelvis by squeezing those glutes! You’re stretching the hip flexor of the leg that is on the floor, knee down. Often, this is enough of a hip flexor stretch for some. If you feel you can add more, bend into more of a lunge with the front knee, keeping the torso upright and glutes engaged to tuck your pelvis!
Stretching for the win!
Keep Thriving 🙂