Hey guys, I’m back again to continue the conversation about how we sit at our desks. Prolonged sitting comes with many discomforts, luckily for us most of them are avoidable.
If you haven’t had a chance to check out my previous blog post, it will provide you with the how to on setting up your home workspace. These tips will help us maintain a neutral spine throughout the day and hopefully reduce some aches and pains. If you still feel discomfort at the end of your day, I have put together these 5 moves that will target specific areas that tend to become weak or underdeveloped when we spend most of our time sitting.
If you have the chance to take 5-10 minutes out of your day, I would highly recommend you give these exercises a try and see how you feel! Try to hold each stretch for 20-30 seconds and work your way up to longer. Fixing our habits takes time, it is important to be consistent and patient to make a sustainable change. If 5 exercises is too many, start by doing one every day and once you have mastered that, add in another. A flexible schedule and time at home is a great opportunity to start building a work space routine. Let’s get started!
1. WRIST CIRCLES
WHY THIS EXERCISE: kneeling wrist circles are a staple in an All Day Fit warm up because wrist mobility and strength tend to get neglected in the gym, but they also get neglected at work. In my previous post “How to Properly Set Up Your Desk At Home”, I mentioned we want our wrists in a neutral position throughout our work day to limit discomfort and reduce chances of osteoarthritis. If you are like me and typing on a laptop all day doesn’t give you that option, then taking breaks to move your wrists was also recommended. Here is a different version of wrist circles you can quickly do while sitting right in front of your computer.
HOW TO DO THIS EXERCISE:
- Start with wrists together, fingers apart.
- Keeping the wrists glued together and pushing the hands away from you circling around the wrists.
- Pull your hands in towards the chest to complete the circle, without letting the fingers or palms touch.
2. WALL CHEST STRETCH
WHY THIS EXERCISE: When our pecs or chest muscles get tight, they pull the shoulder forward and this is what causes rounded shoulders. This is a very common symptom of sitting posture and can cause tight shoulder and neck muscles as well, which can result in headaches, neck, or jaw pain. This exercise can also be done in a corner or doorway.
HOW TO DO THIS EXERCISE:
- Start by standing facing the wall.
- Extend your arm straight out beside you at shoulder height, pressing the palm into the wall.
- With the opposite leg you are going to lunge to the side and turn towards the lunging leg, or away from your arm. Think about opening the chest and looking over your opposite shoulder.
- A straight arm will include a stretch in the biceps, while a bent elbow intensifies the pec stretch.
3. WALL ARM SLIDE
or Wall Angels are not as pretty as they sound (as you can see from the photos).
WHY THIS EXERCISE: This exercise is a huge eye opener when it comes to our posture. It is much more challenging than it looks, don’t let my smile fool you, I am definitely not enjoying myself in this one. The wall arm slide works on spinal alignment, so making sure all the vertebrae of the spine are stacked, as well as shoulder mobility. It includes shoulder external rotation, retraction, depression, and upward rotation, all movements we can become limited in with bad posture. This exercise also requires a lot of core strength to press the low back into the wall, helping with low back stability and pain. A modification to this exercise can be doing it seated against the wall, or lying down with feet flat on the floor. There are many levels to this exercise that come with practice and patience, so start off small and work your way up to the full position if you need to.
HOW TO DO THIS EXERCISE
- Start with feet about a foot’s distance from the floor.
- Tilt the pelvis under and engage the core to press the low back flat on the wall.
- From here tuck your chin, pull your shoulder blades together, and press the rest of your back onto the wall. If you can add the back of your head to the wall too. If you are unable to get the back of the head on the wall, try one of the modified versions.
- Only if you are able to get your entire spine on the wall you are going to add the arms by bringing the elbow up to shoulder height and bent at 90 degrees.
- From here you are going to rotate your hands back, reaching the back of your palm towards the wall. If you are not able to get the back of the palm on the wall without moving any part of your back, stop here.
- Only if you are able to press the back of the palms on the wall, while keeping every part of the back intact, you can then start to slide the arms up the wall, keeping the back, elbows and wrists glued to the wall.
4. WALL DEADBUG
WHY THIS EXERCISE: when we spend a lot of time seated, our core doesn’t have to work as hard to support us. This means it can become weak and make our low back unstable. When our low back is not supported the sacrum bone shifts, which can begin to affect our hips and all the way down the leg. This shifting of the sacrum can cause low back pain and increase chances of arthritis in the hips and low back. Our abdomen also gets compressed while we sit. Meaning all our digestive organs are also compressed, which can lead to major indigestive issues. This also means the diaphragm is compressed. This makes it impossible to get full oxygen exchange in the lungs and to take deep breaths. Deep breathing activates our parasympathetic nervous system, the rest and digest state. While the more common shallow breathing activates our sympathetic nervous system, the fight or flight state, which increases our stress and uses our already tight neck and shoulder muscles to aid in breathing. So working on strengthening the core and focusing on our breathing seems pretty important.
HOW TO DO THIS EXERCISE
- Start lying on your back with your head towards the wall.
- Push the palms into the wall with the elbows tucked in and bent at 90 degrees. Think about using your back muscles to push into the wall, otherwise your arms will get tired very quickly.
- Brace the core and press the low back into the floor.
- From here bring the knees over the hips. Make sure there is tension through the leg, so ankles are in line with the knees and toes are pointed towards the ceiling.
- We are using the core muscles to slowly extend one leg at a time, only going as far as you can without letting the muscles in the hip take over.
- We are using our breathing to keep the core engaged, so focus on exhaling as you extend the leg and inhaling as you pull it back in.
5. FIGURE 4 STRETCH
WHY THIS EXERCISE: This stretch is a great one for opening up the hips and waking up the glutes. As we sit our hip flexor muscles are shortened and can get tight. When we stand our glutes work to keep us upright, so with prolonged sitting they are underused and become weakened. In the gym we see a lot of issues when it comes to activating the glutes, so making sure we don’t forget about them when we are sitting is important. This exercise also has a lot of variations. I show a version using the wall to support your bottom leg, so you are able to push against the top leg, this can also be done seated in a chair. The other variation is without a wall, where you can use your hands, a band, or towel to hold the bottom leg up.
HOW TO DO THIS EXERCISE
- Start lying on your back with your feet flat on the ground.
- Cross one foot over the opposite knee.
- While keeping the neck and shoulders relaxed, grab the bottom leg by interlacing your hands around your thigh, just below the knee. You can also wrap a towel or band around the thigh if you need to pull your shoulder off the ground to maintain your grip. Placing the bottom foot on the wall with the knee bent at 90 degrees is another option.
- From here pull or push the bottom leg towards you, while pushing the top knee away. Think about opening up the hips and squeezing the glutes.