In today's office environment, many individuals find themselves spending a large part of their day sitting at a desk. Unfortunately, research shows prolonged periods of sedentary behavior has negative effects on our bodies, leading to muscle weakness and stiffness. Not to mention weight gain, particularly if you're snacking through the day. Let's look at common areas of the body that are prone to becoming stiff or weakened due to desk work. As well as exercises to combat these problems and promote strength and flexibility.
Areas Affected by Prolonged Desk Work:
Neck and Shoulders: Sitting for long hours can lead to a hunched posture and rounded shoulders, causing tension and stiffness in the neck and shoulders. If you've complained about headaches, neck pain, and stiffness after a day at work, this could be why. To counter these issues, incorporate the following exercises:
Neck Retractions: Sit tall with your shoulders relaxed. Gently draw your chin back, creating a double chin. Hold for a few seconds and repeat for 10-12 reps.
Shoulder Rolls: Shrug your shoulders up towards your ears, roll them back, and then down in a smooth, circular motion. Perform 10-12 reps in each direction.
Upper Back and Chest: Prolonged sitting can lead to a rounded upper back and tight chest muscles. This adds to poor posture and limited shoulder mobility. Consider these exercises:
Thoracic Spine Extension: Sit with a foam roller positioned horizontally across your upper back. Support your head with your hands, gently lean back, and extend your upper back over the roller. Hold for a few seconds and repeat 8-10 times.
Doorway Chest Stretch: Stand in a doorway with your arms positioned at a 90-degree angle against the door frame. Step forward slightly, allowing a gentle stretch across your chest. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat 3-4 times.
Hips and Lower Back: Sitting for hours can cause tight hip flexors and weakened gluteal muscles, leading to lower back pain and reduced hip mobility. Try these exercises:
Hip Flexor Stretch: Kneel on one knee with the other leg bent in front of you at a 90-degree angle. Gently shift your weight forward, feeling a stretch in front of the hip of your kneeling leg. Hold for 30 seconds on each side and repeat 3-4 times.
Glute Bridges: Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Engage your butt muscles and lift your hips off the ground until your body forms a straight line from knees to shoulders. Hold for a few seconds and perform 10-12 reps.
Legs and Circulation: Prolonged sitting leads to poor circulation and weakened leg muscles. You've experienced this if you've felt colder the longer you sit or found it harder to unbend your legs when you get up. To counteract these effects, incorporate these exercises:
Calf Raises: Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Rise up onto the balls of your feet, lifting your heels as high as possible. Hold for a moment and lower back down. Perform 15-20 repetitions.
Seated Leg Extensions: Sit tall in your chair and extend one leg straight out in front of you. Hold for a few seconds and lower it back down. Alternate legs and perform 10-12 reps on each side.
The sedentary nature of desk work will weaken and stiffen various areas of our bodies. But, we can takle these problems and maintain strength and flexibility. Be aware of your posture. Be intentional with your time. Take regular movement breaks and incorporate the eight targeted exercises above. And who doesn't love snacks? Just make them healthy ones. You're not destined to have an "Office Bod" and it's certainly reversible if you currently do!