Author: Zane Guadagnolo
The Journal of the American Medical Association reports that 1 in 4 US adults sit for more than 8 hours a day.1 If you’re an office worker who sits for extended periods of time, chances are your posture is suffering from it. While there is no “perfect posture”, you can still help your body stay pain free and increase your longevity by addressing these three issues.
Decreased Thoracic Mobility
The Thoracic spine is located in the middle of your back, between your cervical and lumbar vertebrae. Hours spent hunched over at your desk and looking down at your phone have inevitably led to losses in your thoracic mobility. The following exercise can help you regain your lost range of motion (ROM) and potentially get rid of nagging back pain.
Start with a foam roller (or a similar surface) in the middle of your back and hands behind your head with elbows pointed forward. Bend over the foam roller, keep your butt on the ground, and point your elbows back. Return to the start position and repeat.
Thoracic Spine Extension
Tight Hip Flexors
Sitting for too long, whether it be at work, home, etc., has a direct correlation with developing tight hip flexors. When your hips get tight, it becomes difficult to stand up straight and avoid extreme anterior pelvic tilt. Try the Hip Flexor Stretch at work, home, and anywhere else you feel comfortable. If you’re stretching in front of your desk, you can even continue to work while improving your posture!
Start in the half-kneeling position with your knee directly underneath your hips (use a pillow or folded coat for comfort). Lean forward and “squeeze” your butt to stretch the hip. Staying in this position, reach your arms overhead without bending in your back. Return to the start position and repeat on both sides.
Hip Flexor Stretch
The gluteal muscles, AKA “butt muscles”, are similarly impacted from sitting for extended periods of time. They are the primary movers in hip extension and play a huge role in maintaining your posture by supporting your spine. The problem with sitting is that it “turns off” your butt muscles and eventually leads to atrophy (loss in muscle mass). Avoiding this calls for more than just stretching; it will require resistance training in the form of hip thrusts. Hip thrusts can be performed during your normal training session or during work hours at the privacy of your desk.
Start by resting your upper back on an elevated surface that won’t move (if your office chair has wheels, press it against a wall to avoid rolling around). Tuck your chin and place your feet flat on the ground. Next, push your hips toward the ceiling while squeezing your butt muscles. Hold this position for 3-5 seconds and control the movement back to the starting position. *This may seem like an awkward exercise to do in an office setting, but explaining why you’re doing these exercises to your coworkers may help them understand and want to improve their posture as well!
Improving your posture really doesn’t have to be that hard! However, it does require consistency and a shift in mindset about how you stand, sit, and walk. These three exercises are a great starting point, but the next step should be sitting less. If your job requires you to be at a desk, attempt to stand and move around every 30-40 minutes rather than sit for hours on end. You can make positive changes to your posture starting today! Stay consistent, be purposeful, and enjoy the process!
1. Ussery, E. N., Fulton, J. E., Galuska, D. A., Katzmarzyk, P. T., & Carlson, S. A. (2018). Joint Prevalence of Sitting Time and Leisure-Time Physical Activity Among US Adults, 2015-2016. Jama,320(19), 2036-2038. doi:10.1001/jama.2018.17797