Sitting in front of your office computer might not seem like a hazardous activity, but over time it can weaken important muscles, leading to chronic back pain and other health problems.
Staffan Elgelid, MDPT, PhD, is an associate professor of physical therapy at Nazareth College and the creator of SmartCore Training, a series of movements that help strengthen the core and improve mobility in the lumbar spine. He suggests the following quick exercises to help you rebalance and strengthen your chairbound body. Need a prod? Schedule reminder text messages or emails with the help of online services such as Ohdontforget.com or Nudgemail.com.
Position: Sitting in a chair
Problem: Hip-flexor tightness
Fix: While standing, take one large step back with your right foot. Lower your hips until your right knee touches the floor. Your left thigh should be parallel with the floor, and your left knee should be directly over your ankle. Place both hands on your left knee, and turn your torso slightly toward your left side. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds, and then repeat with the other leg. Do this three to four times a day.
Position: Slouching with head forward
Problem: Tight neck muscles and rounded shoulders
Fix: Gently drop your head back so that you’re looking at the ceiling. Hold your arms straight out to the sides at shoulder height, palms facing forward, then squeeze your shoulder blades together as your arms move back behind you. Repeat 10 times. Do this several times daily.
Problem: Shortened wrist flexors
Fix: Extend your arms in front of you, fingers pointing toward the ceiling. Place your left hand (palm facing your body) against the fingers of your right hand (palm facing out), then using your left hand, pull the palm and fingers of your right hand back toward your shoulder. Hold for 10 seconds, then repeat on the opposite side. Do this hourly.