You have probably heard "sitting is the new smoking." Most people think the problem with sitting is simply a lack of movement. And if we simply moved more, we would counteract the negative effects of sitting.
However sitting for long periods of times is far more problematic than just a lack of movement.
It becomes a problem of biomechanics. In short, when we sit, certain muscles are placed in a shortened position, while other muscles are simultaneously lengthened. Over time, this leads to distorted posture and poor movement patterns that can lead to injury.
There is likely someone if your office who has succumbed to the dreaded "desk posture." Rounded shoulders, a forward head, and an overall slumped posture. Not only is this posture unflattering, it makes exercising extremely inefficient and ineffective.
Without proper posture, it becomes difficult to fully engage your muscles during exercise. We put in the effort, but fail to fully reap the benefits. We don't just want to move more. We need to move better!
Tools like stand-up desks, posture shirts, treadmill desks, and Fitbits are great tools that remind and encourage us to get up and move. More importantly they break the negative posture pattern caused from prolonged periods of sitting.
I highly suggest investing in a stand up desk or building a makeshift one of your own. Fitbits are surprisingly effective at helping people gamify movement. You can compete for steps against friends and consistently strive for more steps each day.
We can take it a step further and perform a few specific stretches to help combat the dreaded desk posture. While there are many other useful stretches, these three stretches target areas that are routinely tight in people who work desk jobs.
Integrating these stretches will help you reclaim proper posture, improve your movement patterns, and help you maximize the value of any workout, by ensuring you get full range of joint motion and maximal muscular engagement.
The first two stretches target the hip flexors. Tight hip flexors can impact the position of your pelvis and inhibit your ability to use the large and powerful glute muscles. Perform these two stretches and you may immediately feel the difference during exercises like lunges, squats, step-ups. These stretches could even impact an upper body exercise like push-ups by helping you re-establish a neutral pelvis and engage more core musculature.
The second is a chest stretch. While the reason for hunched posture is complex, opening up the chest muscles is an easy and beneficial stretch that may even be possible to perform while at work.
If you are someone with severely distorted posture from a career of working a desk job, I suggest seeking out a personal trainer or physical therapist that specializes in corrective exercise.