Back in a routine this fall doesn’t have to mean back pain. Try these moves to ease the ache of sitting.
September in Minnesota, where our team is located, usually means getting back into routines. Schools have resumed after Labor Day, summer vacations get wrapped up, and we return to habits and set calendars that may have been in flux over the warmer months for get-togethers and BBQs.
If falling back into your regularly scheduled programming has you sitting in your office chair more often, try incorporating some of the stretches below into your day. You’ll combat the effects of extended sedentary time — which, one 2011 study from the British Journal of Sports Medicine found, lops 22 minutes off your life for every hour you spend sitting in front of the TV — and build strength to improve your posture.
Want more tips? Consider these healthy multitasking ideas from “Workday Workouts” by Alisa Bowman:
While on the phone:
- Use a hands-free headset so you can stand and move around as you talk, suggests Michele Olson, PhD, professor of exercise science at the Human Performance Lab at Auburn University in Montgomery, Ala.
- Step up and down on a stair or step stool.
- Do a wall sit.
At the copier:
- Do shoulder-blade pulls. These will strengthen your upper back and combat the forward slump that comes from working at a desk. Straighten your back with your head up, inhale, and pull your shoulder blades together, holding to the count of five. Release and exhale, and repeat 12 times. Do three or four sets.
- Practice optimal posture. Stand as straight as you can, lift your head, drop your shoulders downward, and pull your bellybutton in toward your spine. Breathing deeply, maintain this at-attention posture until your copy job is complete.
- Do calf raises. Place your hands on the copier for balance. Lift one foot off the floor. Rise onto the ball of your standing foot. Hold for a count of five. Lower and repeat 15 times. Then switch legs.
During a meeting:
- While seated, focus on drawing in the deep abdominals as if you’re zipping into tight pants. This strengthens the transverse abdominus, an important muscle that helps support your back and reduces your vulnerability to backaches.
- Stretch your forearms. This helps to counteract the tightness that comes from typing and mousing. Hold your right arm in front of you, your hand flexed as if you were telling someone to “talk to the hand.” Use your left hand to gently pull back on your fingertips. Hold for 30 seconds. Release and repeat, this time with your fingers facing down to stretch the top of your forearm. Then repeat with the other arm.
While working at your desk:
- Place a small-to-medium ball (roughly the size of a kid’s soccer ball) between your knees and squeeze. Hold five to seven seconds, release slightly (without dropping the ball), and repeat until muscles are fatigued.
- Once or twice a day, swap your desk chair for a fitness ball. Build your ball-perching time from 10 minutes to an hour. The ball will force you to sit with proper posture as well as give you a mild core workout as you shift around to stay balanced. You can also use the ball to stretch and strengthen your body. Periodically relax your back over the ball and rest your arms out to the sides to stretch your chest, which gets tight from typing and desk work.
- Do chair curls. To strengthen your hamstrings, sit on the edge of a rolling chair. Extend your legs, but keep your feet flat on the floor. Then slowly bend your legs as you pull the chair in. Roll the chair backward again and repeat 10 to 15 times.
Illustration by Cindy Luu