bird dog

How to Counteract Sitting All Day

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Sitting often does some strange things to our bodies, and sometimes you don’t even consider what it does. Being aware of this can help us counteract the sitting posture and maybe even try to get up and move more often.

Especially when we are sitting and using computers at the same time, plus with the increased habit of looking at our phones really emphasizes the slouch. If someone comes up with a way to look at a phone and still maintain good posture, do share.

Don’t be afraid by the articles that say, “Sitting is the new smoking.” That’s an unfair comparison. I could go on about titles of articles but for now, ignore that one. Although it is not great for your health to sit all day and not move. I think that’s common knowledge.

Please read disclaimer, I am no doctor.

*Mindyfresh is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

What Happens When We Sit?

The entire body is affected. It’s not just the listed body parts below, but each one has an effect on the other because it’s all connected. The body is a connected structure that relies on each part to be working properly. If you have back pain, it may be from a number of muscles tightening and weakening and not the back itself. Taking into account the whole body is a great place to start.

sitting posture
The whole body is connected and affects each part in some way

Here are a few key places to consider. Keep in mind that there is more to the story when it comes to aches and pains. There are so many good exercises out there. These are just a few examples.

Neck

The slouching forward neck posture can create some pain. Looking down at a phone will have different issues than looking at a computer. Looking down creates length in the back and shortening in the front. Looking to a computer and jutting your head forward would cause shortened back of neck. Either way, a side stretch is useful here. Be very gentle. In some cases, you don’t need to use the arm to stretch, just make sure the bottom arm is straight down.

neck stretch
Be gentle when stretching neck. Just lowering neck to one side may be enough without the hand.

Chest

The chest is tightened due to slouching forward. This leads to lengthening in the upper back.

Chest Stretch

This is a favorite. The chest gets so tight from being slouched over that a good opening of the chest may help over time.

chest stretch with towel
Use a towel if you cannot clasp your hands
chest stretch
Chest stretch

Upper Back

The upper back is lengthened and weakened with slouching.

Upper Back Strength

More importantly than a good stretch for the upper back is some strengthening. It is constantly getting pulled down and stretched out. There are tons of exercises and I will post more on the upper back itself, but for now focus on trying to get that upper back a little stronger so it can support posture better. The bird dog exercise listed below for the lower back strength is also great for the upper back as well.

Below is a very simple exercise that can be done together. Just focus on squeezing the shoulder blades together.

upper back strength
Start here
upper back strength
Squeeze shoulder blades together and end here.

Side Stretch

This is very useful when used to being a straight line sitting all day.

side stretch
Side stretch sitting in chair or on ground or standing.

Wrist

The wrist can be compressed, causing tightness in the carpal tunnel. I’m sure we’ve all heard about this. The carpal tunnel is a band that wraps around the muscles that flex the wrist (the part that rests on the keyboard when you type).

Wrist Stretches

The wrist can be quickly stretched if there’s any soreness. See below for some ideas. Be aware this is a delicate area and to not over extend. This can be done by stretching each finger back safely or the wrist as a whole.

wrist stretch
Stretch each individual finger
wrist stretch
Gentle stretch back
Roll the wrists out as well

Hamstrings

The hamstrings tighten because they are bent while sitting. The tight hamstrings can shorten and pull on the back to cause pain.

Hamstring Stretch

This hamstring stretch is easily done either sitting on having one leg up on a chair. The outer hip and thigh may benefit from a good stretch as well, find some stretches here.

hamstring stretch
Try one leg up on chair
hamstring stretch
Sit on the ground and stretch without too much back rounding

Hip Flexors

Also an area of tightness. Tight hip flexors may cause the lower back to tilt and cause pain there as well.

Hip Flexor Stretch

The classic lunge stretch is a good one for the hips.

hip flexor stretch
Make sure the front knee stays behind the toes.

Lower back

All of the above can affect the lower back. This is another area of the body that should be focused on for strength as well. It’s the central core to everything else. Find some ideas for core exercises here. Stretching and strengthening is useful.

Lower Back Stretch

The child’s pose is a great stretch, also for the first thing to do when waking up in the morning. It’s also a good side stretch to reach the arms to left and right while in child’s pose.

lower back stretch
Child’s pose for a stretch

Lower Back Strengthen

The bird dog exercise is a very simple way to strength the core and back. If you cannot do this, consider trying one arm or one leg at a time.

bird dog
Bird dog for strength. Reach opposite arm and leg and lower. Keep a straight line. Only lift one at a time if too difficult.

How To Decrease Negative Effects From Sitting

The body wants to move and needs to move. If we can focus on some of these areas and try to do these to counteract our sitting posture, it will be a great step towards better health. You can check out benefits of better posture here

Sit Better

I know this sounds silly, but put a little effort into it.

  • Set a timer every hour to remind you to sit up straight.
    • Squeeze your shoulder blades together without raising your shoulders up. Think of your ears and shoulders on the same line.
  • Sit on an exercise ball instead
    • It is difficult to slouch too much on a wobbly ball. Bonus, it has a core strengthening component.
  • Use a standing desk
    • For obvious reasons, standing up makes it less easy to slouch, provided the desk is at the correct height.
  • Get up and walk every so often
    • Again, set a timer
    • Keep things you need farther away, like a drink of water or your phone

Start Small

  • Get up and move every 30 minutes if possible. All you have to do is go get a drink or go walk to the other side of the room. Just do something to readjust.
  • Set a timer every hour to simply roll your shoulders back to not slouch.
  • Put a reminder sticker on your computer (if using) to get up.

OR Challenge Yourself

  • Put exercise cards by desk of ones you like to do. (squat, push up). Pick one every hour and do maybe just five of that exercise.
  • Put stretch cards by desk. Use the ones listed above.
  • Keep dumbbells or resistance bands by your work area to quickly pick up and use.

Other important considerations

  • Ergonomics – Do you have the correct height chair and desk? This post doesn’t cover that as it’s a lengthy topic on its own, but something to consider. If you have a workplace, they should support proper desks for their employees.
  • If you have an ache or pain, talk to a health professional and get information on how to properly manage it.
  • Yoga is fantastic for counteracting sitting postures.
exercises for sitting

In addition, check out my Exercises to Improve Posture.


Fresh Fitness: If you’re sitting all day, at least get up every hour to move. Start with the exercises that best work for you.


5 Comments

  • Robert

    June 15, 2020

    Excellent detailed post and photos! I always make sure to get up and move around every 15-20 minutes to get the blood flowing and joints moving. You’ve got some very helpful stretching exercises to do, and will certainly add a few more to my daily routine. Great post! ๐Ÿ™‚

    Reply
    • Mindy Voet

      June 19, 2020

      Good to hear you make sure to get moving. Thank you!

      Reply
  • Amber Baggiore

    June 15, 2020

    I am brand new to having a desk job and have already felt the effects on my body! Thanks for posing, will definitely try some of these out!

    Reply
  • Jen Lai-lyn

    May 23, 2020

    I have never stretched any of my fingers so I just tried and the first one I did clicked straight away! Thanks so much for sharing…itโ€™s been a huge help and eye opener x

    Reply
    • Mindy Voet

      May 24, 2020

      Thanks! It’s something we never think about, stretching fingers.

      Reply

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