Many of us have no choice but to sit at a desk of most of the day. There are options to break up all the sitting, such as frequent breaks and using a standing desk, but even these adjustments aren’t enough to undo the damage of sitting.
We know that a generally sedentary life leads to all sorts of illness as well as pain in the joints, back, and neck. As it turns out, sitting for long periods of time over the course of years is bad for your brain and heart, too. We weren’t meant to sit as much as many of us do—we were meant for movement.
A lot of sitting over time makes us lose muscle strength, tone, and range of motion. It also affects circulation, respiration, and digestion.
Even if you exercise regularly, sitting for long periods significantly shortens your life expectancy.
The Dangers of a Desk Job
Many people with desk jobs suffer from pain due to constricted muscles caused by poor posture and lack of movement. Posture while sitting is just as important as it is while standing. If you experience pain and stiffness, part of the problem may be your chair; if you can get one that’s ergonomic and fits your body, it’ll go a long way to help you to sit properly.
Slouching, crossing legs, and keeping arms too high or too low all affect your sitting position. We learn to sit as infants and most babies will sit correctly with their back straight and shoulders back. However, as we get older, with larger spans of time spent sitting combined with poorly-designed furniture, we often resort to slouching. Watch the video below that illustrates what we’ve forgotten: the proper way to sit.
Watch the video below that illustrates what we’ve forgotten: the proper way to sit.
We’re not doomed to living with pain associated with long-term sitting. Starting today, you can use the five best back exercises below to loosen your muscles, improve posture, and increase your range of movement.
5 Best Back Exercises to Avoid Back Pain from Sitting
Your back will feel better with just a few days of practice.
1. Glute Bridges
This will work your hips, glutes, and abs. Once you’re comfortable with doing it, you can add a barbell across your hips to keep it challenging and further tone and strengthen.
- Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
- Raise your butt and hips so that your body forms a straight line, squeezing your glutes to push you up. Return to the starting position.
- Do 3 sets of 10.
2. Couch Stretch
This is an exercise in posture that provides support so you can maintain the proper position. If you’re sitting on the couch anyway, you might as well take a stretch out of it!
- Place one foot flat on the floor and the opposite knee on the couch where the seat and back meet so that your shin and foot are up the back of the couch.
- Flex your abdominal muscles and glutes and slowly raise your torso up so that you are standing straight and tall.
- Hold the position for about 5 minutes and then switch legs.
Once you’ve mastered this, add a bit more to the exercise by placing your foot at the edge of the couch’s seat instead of the floor. Your back and abs will have to work harder to maintain balance and posture, reversing the desk slouch you brought home from work.
3. Grok Squat
This simple but effective stretch does wonders for your lower back. You’ll feel it in your legs and pelvis, too.
- Place your feet shoulder-width apart and slowly squat down as low as you can go.
- Hold the position for as long as you like, then stand up slowly.
4. Leg Swings
This exercise will extend your range of motion and open up your hips. The more you do it, the greater the range will become. Make sure to control the movement of your leg to maintain proper form.
- Place one hand on the back of a chair or something sturdy for support. Swing one leg forward as far as it will go, bring it back down past the stationary foot and continue the swing back as far as it will go.
- Repeat 20 times, then switch legs.
- Switch legs again. Swing it out to the side as far as it will go. Bring it down and in front of your body to cross to the other side.
- Repeat 20 times, then switch legs.
- Keep your foot flexed throughout the exercise.
5. Fire Hydrants
These movements open the back, pelvis, and upper leg. You’ll feel it in your hips and buttocks. Keep your back straight and feet flexed throughout.
- Start on all fours and raise your bent leg out to the side to the height of your hip. Lift from the hip and maintain a bent knee without turning your torso.
- Lower your leg back to the starting position.
- Repeat 10-20 times on each side.
If you’re compelled to sit at your job, ensure you walk around every 20-30 minutes, not only for your back but to give your eyes a break too. Keeping in mind the long-term effect of years of sitting, the more you move, the better off you’ll be.
It’s also important to be conscious of your posture; you’ll feel better if you stand, walk, and sit with a straight back, shoulders back, and core tight. Use a footrest, if necessary, to be able to sit properly with your knees at 90° angles and avoid crossing your legs.
If you sit a lot during work time, sit as little as possible when at home. If you watch television, you can exercise/stretch on the floor while you watch. If you spend time reading, prop up your book or tablet and try standing while you read. Whatever your position, change it often. Any move is a good one.
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