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.
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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.
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.
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.
The chest is tightened due to slouching forward. This leads to lengthening in the upper back.
This is a favorite. The chest gets so tight from being slouched over that a good opening of the chest may help over time.
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.
This is very useful when used to being a straight line sitting all day.
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).
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.
The hamstrings tighten because they are bent while sitting. The tight hamstrings can shorten and pull on the back to cause pain.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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
- 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.
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.