March 25, 2012
Hey you! Yes, you, the woman who can’t peel her eyes off the computer screen. Even if you have the most ergonomically correct workstation in the world, sitting there and working on your computer for hours at a time is one of the worst things to physically do to your body. First of all, who wants to look like the Hunchback of Notre Dame? And I won’t even mention (OK, I am) the back and neck pain it causes…which leads to headaches! Ugh! No bueno, right?
One of the most useful things you can do for your body is to move around and change positions every 20 to 30 minutes. This allows your body to naturally stretch and increase circulation to stagnant muscles, preventing the tightening and weakening of those muscles that are used less while you are sitting. Your body adapts. That means if you spend most of your time in one position, different muscles in your body will shorten or lengthen to adjust to that position.
I understand that there are times when that just can’t happen, so here are a few moves straight from my Skype Shape-Up program.You will be able to do these at your desk to prevent you from looking like Quasimodo’s twin and suffering subsequent headaches. And, bonus…you’ll look leaner and taller!
1. As seen in our “Moves for a Better Butt” article seat hovers will keep your legs and butt strong. From your chair, squeeze your butt cheeks, hold your stomach in, and press through your heels and lift that tush off your chair. Let your bottom hover over your seat pan a couple of inches. Be sure to tuck your tailbone under you and clench your glutes. Keep your shoulders drawn back to keep your back flat. When you can’t stand it anymore, stand straight up by squeezing that bum. (Wow, there are a lot of different words for butt.)
2. Hip circles will keep your lower back mobile and pain free. Begin by sitting in neutral position—at the front edge of your chair, planting your feet flat on the floor, and keeping your shoulders drawn back and down (imagine trying to tuck the bottom of your shoulder blades into your back pockets). Press your navel in, toward your spine. Inhale and tuck your pelvis under you, flattening your back. (When done right, you will feel the muscles of your lower abdomen—transverse abdominals—heat up.) Then, exhale and press it back, arching your lower back. Repeat a few times. Then circle your hips around, about five in each direction, like you are trying to draw circles with your tailbone.
3. Hip flexor stretches ensure those muscles at the top front of your thighs don’t shorten on you, which can cause nasty lower back pain. If you’re wearing pants you can do this in your chair. Start seated in neutral with your left upper leg on the front edge of your chair. Drop your right leg off the chair, right knee pointed straight down, stabilizing your body by holding your abs in and tucking your tailbone under you (flattening your lower back). Reach your right toes as far back as possible. You should be able to feel a warm stretch from the front of your right hip and down the front of that thigh. Hold for a count of ten, and repeat on your left leg.
So, If you are in a dress or bottom that inhibits your movement into this stretch, stand up and take one step forward about two feet with your left leg. Keep your stomach in and shoulders back. Then tuck your pelvis under you, pointing your tailbone down toward the floor. You should feel that stretch in the front of your right hip. Hold and repeat on your other side.
4. Shoulder blade pinches strengthen the muscles of your upper and mid back, preventing the all-too-common forward shoulder slump. You can do these while you type. Begin in neutral position. Then, pinch your shoulder blades together, like you’re trying to crush an apple between your shoulder blades. Be aware that your shoulders don’t shrug up—keep’em down.
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Don’t worry about looking silly. These exercises are pretty discreet and shouldn’t cause you to be the topic of whispering at the water cooler. But really, who cares what anybody else thinks anyway? You’re exercising so you’ll be more productive and to keep your body healthy. If your co-workers are with it, they’ll be joining you in doing these refreshing exercises.