Our sedentary digital culture keeps us parked in front of screens for hours, not only keeping us away from activities, it also shortens hamstrings, tightens hip flexors, and atrophies muscles. The solution: chair exercises.
Ideally, we would get up and move around all day. But if you don’t have this freedom and are stuck to your desk for hours, you can still make movements that counteract the negative pressure of sitting.
Take a look at your desk chair before you move. It should be positioned so that your knees are at the same height or slightly lower than your hips. Move the chair to a 110-degree angle that is tilted slightly so that you are not at a rigid 90-degree angle putting strain on your back. The armrests should support your elbows, which should be bent 90 degrees and your shoulders relaxed.
Next, take a look at your computer location. Standing desks have become popular for a number of reasons, not least because you are less likely to be looking at the computer screen that curves around your shoulders and spine. Remain seated and position the laptop or computer monitor directly in front of you so that the angle of your chin is bent down 20 to 30 degrees.
Once that’s cleared up, tackle these chair exercises without leaving your desk. Do it all day – and please find time for your mind and muscles for daily exercise.
The best chair exercises to relieve pain while sitting
1. Glute activation
Having a flat back doesn’t mean you lack the genetics of an offensive lineman. It’s more of a symptom of tight hips and poor movement patterns that translate into disabled glutes, leading to postural discomforts like back pain. To activate these muscles without standing, squeeze the glutes one by one throughout the day. Do it at your desk or while you’re stuck on either side in a set of 10 meeting. When it comes to chair exercise, this couldn’t be easier.
2. Shoulder drop
Sitting around the shoulders creates a hunched look while also contributing to neck and back pain. During your day at your desk or in a meeting, pull your shoulders back and down in sets of 10. Imagine rolling them down towards your back pockets. This will reset posture and prevent neck pain.
3. Tummy tuck
The transverse abdomen is a remarkable small muscle from which movement from the core region begins. Unfortunately, sitting too much also shuts it down. Reactivate it by slowly pulling your belly button away from your belt buckle or waistband. Don’t think about sucking in your bowels or holding your breath, just slowly moving your belly button back and forth.
4. Ball pushes
Pressable stress balls were a popular office gift years ago. Stress relief is still important, but carpal tunnel syndrome has become an epidemic because of the amount of time we spend on a computer or smartphone. Keep a golf ball and / or lacrosse ball at your desk and grab it several times a day. Roll it along your fingers and especially along the hand pads to relieve tension.
5. Toe rolls
Take the same golf ball and / or lacrosse ball and roll it over the soles of your feet, ideally barefoot, but at least in socks. We have a lot of tension in our feet, and rolling relieves this stress while improving our sense of proprioception, which helps the body avoid falls. Roll between your toes along the length of your feet to your heels.
6. Towel stretch
This is another effective stretch for opening up your hunched shoulders. If you don’t already have enough flexibility, you’ll need to keep a small towel by your desk. With one hand, lean forward behind your neck, holding the towel and your elbow up. With the other hand, gently pull down on the other end of the towel. You will likely find this easier on one side than the other. Unlike many stretches, this stretch can progress relatively quickly if done daily, to the point where you can forego the towel and gradually grab your hands on either side. Perform a set of 10 two-second holds on each side.
7. Ankle stretching
Our ankles go unused at a desk during all these hours. Hold it at full activation with a simple stretch. With your feet outstretched, bend your feet off the floor and point your toes down. Hold down the button until two and repeat for a set of 10. Then, keep your feet dorsal and pull your toes toward your shins. Hold down the button until two and repeat for a set of 10.
Pete Williams is a NASM certified personal trainer and author and co-author of several books on performance and training.
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