Since the 1950s, sedentary jobs have increased by 83% according to the American Heart Association. If you’re one of the millions of people who sit at a desk for work, you have probably experienced some degree of neck and/or back pain. It’s no secret that sitting for too long can affect your health, but the reality is often worse than people care to admit. Not using proper sitting posture at your desk can lead to lifelong pain and even contribute to a higher risk of death.
Since Friendly PC provides you with the tools to get those jobs done, we’ve created this guide to help correct your sitting posture, and offer simple exercises you can do to reduce pain so you can stay healthy at your desk.
What are the Risks of Sitting Too Long?
Research links sitting for long periods of time to many health concerns. The most common being lower back pain. The vertebrae in our spine flex to relieve stress, but when you sit without proper posture, the vertebrae can flex the wrong way and cause the discs (or cushions) between them to bulge and pinch nerves, creating back pain.
Sitting at a desk for too long can also influence other less noticeable health concerns like:
- Weight Gain
- Neck Pain
- Heart Disease
- Varicose Veins
There’s no doubt that any amount of prolonged sitting can be harmful to your health. It can be a direct cause of pain or even contribute to other high risk conditions, but all hope is not lost. Years of research have shown that less sitting and increased movement can help counteract the negative effects of sitting too long.
10 Simple Stretches and Exercises to do at Your Desk
It’s a misconception that you can only be healthy if you work out aggressively for 3 hours a day. The truth is 30 minutes a day of non-sitting activity can drastically reduce the risk of back pain or other major conditions.
It probably feels a little silly to do stretches or exercises at your desk but trust us, your body will thank you later. These 10 desk exercises and stretches will keep you feeling bendy, loose and ready to jump onto the next conference call or knock out the project you’ve been putting off.
- Head Tilt
Sit with your back straight, and chin straight forward. Tilt your head toward the right shoulder and hold for 10-15 seconds. Slowly raise your head back to center then tilt slowly to the left and hold again.
- Reach to the Sky
Sit with your back straight, and chin straight forward. Interlace your fingers (not thumbs), face your palms outward and extend both arms as far as you can. Slowly raise your pinky fingers above your head and hold for 10-15 seconds. Slowly lower your arms and release.
For a little extra stretch in your chest, once your hands are above your head slowly lower them to the right just past your shoulder. Hold. Slowly release back to center and switch to the left.
- Shoulder Shrugs
Sit with your back straight, chin straight forward and arms at your sides. Lift both shoulders up toward your ears and hold for 2-3 seconds. Do this a few times.
- Seated Toy Soldier
Sit straight, and stretch your right arm up toward the ceiling. Extend your left leg and place your heel on the floor, keep your knee straight and raise your leg up as you lower your right arm. Try to touch your right arm to your left foot. Do this 8-10 times and switch sides.
- Reverse Arch Stretch
Sit straight, reach both arms behind your back and interlace your fingers with palms touching. Now, reach back a few more inches and hold for 3-5 seconds.
For a little extra stretch, interlace your fingers without your thumbs together and push your palms outward away from your back.
- Calf Raises
Stand behind your chair and rest your hands on the top. Raise your heels until you’re standing on your toes and slowly lower back down. Do this 8-10 times.
- Hamstring Curl
Stand up. Give yourself some space and bend your elbows. Swing your right arm (with elbow bent) up toward your chin while kicking out your left foot up to your rear. Switch sides (keeping arms opposite of legs). Do this 8-10 times.
Stand in front of your chair. Keeping your back straight, sit back on your chair (or stop at seat level if your chair has wheels) and stand back up. Do this 10 times.
- Push Ups
No, we don’t expect you to lay on the floor. So, they’re more like push outs. Face the wall and place both hands at shoulder height with your elbows up and chest resting against the wall. Legs should be 3-4 feet from the wall so your body forms a triangle with the wall. Push against the wall, straightening your arms and repeat 8-10 times.
- Go on a Walk
Leave your phone at your desk or in your pocket and let your arms hang free. Then walk. Where? It’s up to you but we suggest outside! Take 30 minutes and enjoy the fresh air.
Check out more easy exercises: Draxe.com, Washingtonpost.com
How to Sit with Proper Posture at Your Desk
“Sit up straight”. We repeat it in your exercise list a lot for a reason. Bad posture is bad for your health; sitting in general is bad for your health. But if you have to do it, at least use proper posture. According to Ergonomics, this infographic shows how we should be sitting at our desks:
- Your eyes should be in line with the area of the screen you focus on the most.
- Keep pens, notepads, calculators and often used things close to you so you don’t have to reach all day long, a foot away is standard. Fun fact: for every inch you reach forward, the spine feels like it has taken on an extra 10 pounds.
- Try to keep your arms at a 90-degree angle in a resting position to avoid shoulder injuries and upper back pain. It’s okay to rest your elbows on the arm rests, those aren’t just for looks.
- Your back should always be supported when sitting with a small curve in the lumbar area where your natural lower back is.
- It’s ok to cross your legs and feet every once and a while throughout the day but try to keep it at a minimum; it’s ideal to have your legs uncrossed with your feet flat on the floor.
Just because you sit all day at work doesn’t mean you have to be unhealthy or inactive. Get up and move around. Take a walk or do some simple stretches. Sure, you may look a little weird but let’s face it, all the best people are!
If you’ve been sitting with poor posture for most of your life, sitting with proper posture may be a little uncomfortable at first, but that’s okay. Give it a little time, stick with it and soon you won’t even notice the difference.
If you’re interested in more ways to stay healthy, read our other articles:
Healthy Computer Use Habits
The Essential Guide to Cleaning Your Computer Inside and Out