Working in an office and sitting for long periods of time is not good for health. Prolonged sitting increases the risk of heart disease, diabetes and obesity. Blood flow slows and the body is unable to burn fat at the same rate. Digestion also becomes sluggish which can lead to feeling bloated or having stomach cramps. When sitting incorrectly and working on a computer for long periods, this will also place great strain on the back, neck and shoulders which could lead to significant health issues along with general aches and pains.
The importance of posture
Sitting or standing correctly is vital for health but postural problems are becoming all-too common when work is sedentary by nature. It’s easy to forget all about posture when hunched over a laptop or staring at a screen all day. The hours can pass by without considering the position of the back, neck or shoulders and it is only when the body begins to feel stiff or uncomfortable that adjustments are made. Over time, this becomes relevant as the spine loses its flexibility and the muscles of the neck and shoulders become tight and inflexible.
Many office workers find that their shoulders start to round forwards and even the pelvis can be affected. Pain is likely. Slouching causes tension in the muscles and awareness is the first step towards change. In the US, back pain is considered one of the top job-related physical disabilities as the average adult spends up to 10 hours a day sitting, and it takes more than a general workout to counteract this effect.
It is essential to consider health and posture while at work. Try the following exercises regularly and where possible, take a break from the desk and go for a walk:
1. Spinal rotation
Sit in your office chair with feet flat on the floor. Cross your arms over your chest placing your hands-on alternate shoulders. Now, rotate the upper body. The movement should go through the waist. Turn gently and smoothly from left to right. Feel the stretch on the lower back.
2. Posterior shoulder stretch
Remain seated and hold one arm across the front of the body. Bring the elbow in towards the chest and this should create a stretch through the shoulder. Repeat on the other arm.
3. Neck rotations
With your head in an upright position, turn your head to the left and then to the right. The movements can be subtle at first but gradually, increase the stretch trying to move your head beyond the shoulder. Do not strain. The muscles at the side of the neck should experience a good stretch but no pain.
4. Sitting back extensions
Sit with back straight and with head balanced neatly on top of the neck. Feet should be flat on the floor. Place the palms of the hands into the small of the back and lean back over the hands, stretching backwards. The stretch should be felt in the lower back region.
5. Chair dips
If you want to work the shoulders and triceps, sit towards the edge of the chair, with palms on the edge of the seat, fingers over the edge. Take your weight forward and then, lower yourself from the chair so that your arms take your weight and hold, then, raise back up to the seat. Perform ten of these at first.
6. Leg extensions
Ensure posture is good and move to the edge of the chair with arms at the side. Now, extend the right leg out from the knee flexing the foot so that the muscles in the shin and ankle are engaged. Lift the leg as high as is possible but do not round the back. Hold for a count of three and then, lower. Repeat on the other leg.
7. Knee tucks
This final exercise engages the abdominal muscles and the tucks can be done singly at first or with both legs when ready. Sit back in the chair slightly, contracting the stomach muscles and bring one leg towards the chest. Hold and then, return that leg to its neutral position. Repeat with the other leg.
There are many exercises that can be utilized while sitting at a desk and all it takes is a little imagination and a small amount of time. Just by incorporating the exercises here, there will be a greater feeling of wellbeing and fewer aches and pains. Posture will also improve and there will be a greater freedom of movement.