At this point, we all know (or most of us do) that sitting is the “new” smoking, and that our tendency to leave butts attached to seats all day long does our bodies no favours. There is a long list of health warnings attached to this habit, but one of the more immediate and obvious examples is one that hits desk-bound folks most significantly. Your posture will likely start to suffer.
If you’re concerned your relationship with your desk is having a negative impact on your posture, don’t panic. There are things you can do to change that.
I spoke with Kate Kraschnefski, Head of Training at the Australian Institute of Fitness, over email and she shared her tips on the exercises you can use to get your posture back in line.
Get a postural analysis to see what will help your posture
Kraschnefski shared that the best place to start when it comes to posture is to figure out how your muscles in this part of your body are faring with a postural analysis. She explained that a qualified personal trainer should be able to help with this.
Obviously, this advice only applies to those who are able to work with a PT right now. COVID-19 restrictions may get in the way for some, but no dramas – just get it sorted when you’re next able to.
In a nutshell, however, this step will help inform your exercise plan.
“You will have some muscles that are tight, and some that are weak. Armed with this information, you’ll be able to select specific exercises to strengthen and stretch your body in key target areas,” Kraschnefski said.
Pay attention to the posterior chain (back of the legs and spine)
In most cases, Kraschnefski shared that spending long periods of time seated will cause “the muscles on the front of our body rest in a shortened position, often making them weak and tight”.
“Exercise selection favouring the back muscles can not only help to address imbalances, but they can also open and energise our bodies after a long day of desk-dwelling,” she said.
Her exercise of choice here is a kettlebell swing. Check out Kraschnefski’s guide below:
Select a weight that you can comfortably swing for 20 repetitions. Start light until you get the technique right.
- Start with the kettlebell on the ground.
- Reach for it as if you are doing a stiff legged deadlift. You want to make sure you are not squatting to grab it;
- Pull the kettlebell back between your legs with relaxed arms.
- Start the swing phase by pushing your hips forward, squeezing the glutes and straightening your posture.
- Without actively lifting the kettlebell with your arms, as you straighten, lean back a little and do a slight retracting in the scapula. At this point, your posterior chain is activated.
- Let the kettlebell return to between your legs to commence the swing phase again.
To assist with improving posture, aim for multiple sets of 20-50 repetitions. This will help your muscles build endurance. If you are not sure about your kettlebell technique, get a qualified personal trainer to teach you!
Introduce 4-minute yoga breaks into your day
A hugely impactful way to loosen up your body during the workday is by stopping for quick yoga breaks, Kraschnefski explained.
“Set yourself an alarm for every 60-90minutes or so and complete a simple 4-minute yoga flow to stretch your muscles. Yoga has the added benefit of mindfulness that can help us manage stress through the day too,” she said.
We’ve shared Kraschnefski’s posture-friendly yoga guide for you below:
She suggests you try:
- 30 seconds of Child’s pose
- 60 seconds Cat-Cow stretch
- 60 seconds of Pigeon pose
- 30 seconds of Child’s poseChild’s pose:
- Start on your hands and knees.
- Move your hands forward with straight arms.
- Lower your hips so they are on your feet or between them on the floor.
- Rest your forehead on the ground.
- Take deep breaths.Cat-Cow:
- On all fours, ensure your wrists are under your shoulders and your knees under hips.
- Start with a neutral spine, then arch into cat position on inhale. Tuck your tailbone under and your chin in. Imagine a C-shape through the spine.
- Now on an exhale, move to cow position by dropping your belly and looking up towards the sky. Draw your shoulders away from your ears and tilt the pelvis forward.
- Move through these positions in time with your breathing.Pigeon Pose:
- Start on your hands and toes, like in a plank position.
- Carefully move your right knee between your hands and rest your leg so your quad is parallel to the mat.
- Ensure your left hip stays close to the mat to open through the hip flexor and that your chest is facing forward.
- You can fold your chest forward towards your right knee if it feels welcome in the body.
- Carefully swap to the other side after breathing through the stretch for 30 seconds.
Don’t skip your lunch break
Yes, it can be tempting to shrug off your lunch and attempt to “power through” your work. But that habit is only adding to the time spent at your desk, worsening your posture.
“Make a promise to yourself to take your designated break, and ideally take a 20-30 minute stroll. In addition to the many health benefits of incidental exercise and getting fresh air, when we walk, our postural muscles are activated. This will help us maintain better posture once we are back at our desk,” Kraschnefski said.
Standing often is great for your posture
Sounds simple, but getting into the habit of standing regularly is a pretty significant one. There’s a reason all our smartwatches nudge us to get butts off seats more often.
“Standing up will again awaken your postural muscles and help get the creative juices flowing,” Kraschnefski explained.
It may feel odd at first, but if you make a note of standing during calls or even getting yourself a standing desk, you’ll adjust in no time, Kraschnefski shared.
Is anyone else incredibly aware of how they’re sitting right now? Better attend to my posture with a mini yoga session, I guess.
And if you’d like to continue working on your back muscles and posture, check out this write up of the best back exercises to try out in the gym or at home.
This article has been updated since its original publish date.