Hey, you! Yes, you. The person reading this while leaning over your keyboard staring at the screen. I’m talking to you. The person that spends hours a day with your shoulders slumped and your neck cramped. If you have a corporate job, you’ve likely felt the effects of sitting all day—the discomfort of your desk set up, pain in your low back or perhaps you glimpsed yourself in the mirror and didn’t recognize the creature staring back at you. Well, you’re not alone. Most people are unaware of the bad postural habits they pick up over time.
It’s never too late to practice self-care and reinvest in your body. If you are suffering from muscle tightness and poor posture read on for exercises that will help alleviate pain, build strength and help you sit a bit taller.
Here are 5 exercises to sneak in during the work day:
1. Abdominal bracing.
Often done lying down, this exercise can just as easily be performed in your desk chair. Sit up straight and tighten your abs as if you are bracing for impact. For added benefit, focus on pulling your belly button to your spine. Hold for ten seconds and repeat 10x. Increase duration and reps over time.
2. Relax your shoulders.
The trapezius muscle is often the culprit for neck pain. Stress causes your shoulders to rise, adding tension to the muscle and causing pain. To stretch the upper part of the muscle, let your right arm hang down and tilt your left ear to your left shoulder. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat on the opposite side. To stretch the lower part of the muscle, sit up straight and press your shoulders down and then retract them (as if holding a pencil between your shoulder blades), return to neutral and repeat 10x.
3. Stand up.
The act of sitting puts the hips in a flexed position causing already tight and weak hip flexors to further contract. While dynamic stretching and strengthening is recommended outside of the office, simply standing up can release tension. To bump up the relief, stand in split stance with one foot about 2 ½ feet in front of the other. Slightly bend your back knee and move your body forward as you bend the front knee. You will feel a significant stretch at the front of your hip. Try this on a conference call.
4. Glute contractions.
Whether you are sitting at your desk or standing in a conference room, this exercise can be done anywhere. Your gluteal muscles make up your rear end. Squeeze and hold for 5 seconds and repeat 20x for three sets. Exercise increases circulation. When you exercise a muscle, the body sends blood to the area to help the muscle continue to do work. Blood has healing properties that in turn can help alleviate pain.
5. External rotation of the shoulders.
Typing away at a computer has a compounding effect on your shoulders. For individuals who spend most of the day on the computer, it is very common for shoulders to rotate in toward the body, causing a rounding of the upper back. Stand against a wall keeping your head, shoulders, elbows and rear end in contact with the wall. Brace your abdominals. Bend at the elbow with palms facing up. Keep your elbows glued to your side and retract your shoulders while bringing your thumbs as close to the wall as possible. Stay within a comfortable range of motion. Start with 10 reps and work your way up to 20. Once you have mastered this at the wall, try this at your desk in a seated position.
maximum benefit, do these exercises every day to start working on breaking that slump!