Most of us spend a big part of our day sitting down, and often when we go home we forgo physical exercise for an evening in front of the TV or computer. Consequently, all of these extended sitting sessions lead to slouching in our chairs. Even if we start by sitting upright, eventually our muscles become fatigued, and we slouch automatically , letting our bones take the brunt of the weight instead of our muscles.
Over time, our bad sitting posture becomes our “regular” posture, and slouching can cause a host of problems: pain in the shoulders, joints, neck, lower back, knees, and even headaches. The following exercises will train the muscles in charge of supporting your spine, which will help you maintain the proper sitting position.
1. Strengthen your back with “Warrior” pose
The “warrior” pose is an exercise that strengthens your thighs and stretches your arms significantly – both areas are important in reducing strain on your spine.
To perform this exercise, start by standing with your legs straight together, and your arms stretched up. Step forward with your right leg until your knee is at a 90° angle, plant your foot firmly on the ground. Next, stretch your left leg back. Hold the position for 5-10 seconds, and then stand back up. Repeat with the opposite leg.
2. Chest stretches
This exercise simulates pushups while in a standing position. It is designed to stretch your chest muscles and ease spinal pain.
Stand in an open doorway, place your hands at shoulder height outside the door frame. Bend your elbows and lean forward on your toes while keeping your chest straight, and then push forward, straightening your elbows. Repeat this action 5-10 times. The more you perform this exercise, the more you’ll notice that it gets easier to bend your elbows and resume your initial stance. Your goal is to be able to do 10-25 repetitions with ease.
3. Strengthen your gluts
Hip and lower back pains are often the results of weakened glut muscles that are having problems carrying the weight of your spine. When our sitting posture is incorrect, it takes the pressure off of our gluts, which ends up weakening them more. By performing the following exercise regularly, you can relieve much of the pain caused by inactive glut muscles, and prevent new pain from occurring.
To perform this exercise, lay a mat on the floor and lie down on your back, with your knees bent at a 45° angle, and your legs held tightly together. Now push your buttocks up, until your knees are bent at a 90° angle. Keep your chest down, clench your buttocks while focusing on pushing your legs down to the floor. Maintain this position for a few seconds and release.
If the exercise feels too easy, try raising one leg up while pushing your buttocks up.
4. Shoulder-strengthening pushups
In addition to regular pushups, you can perform this variation that trains and strengthens your shoulders, which provides better support during prolonged periods of sitting.
Begin in the pushup position, with your body leaning on your straightened-out arms, palms facing down, your back straight, and your legs stretched back. Next, instead of bending your elbows, keep your arms straight and allow your shoulders to move (as seen in the animation above). Repeat this exercise until you can easily perform 3 sets of 10 repetitions.
5. Stretching your Trapezoids
This simple stretch improves your shoulder region’s flexibility where it connects to the spine. This will help your neck be more limber and prevent future pain in the area.
Begin by standing or sitting on a chair without a back. Keep your back straight, your arms loose at the sides of your body and your legs straight and touching the floor. With one hand, reach up to touch the opposite side of your head, gently pulling it towards the shoulder. Avoid exerting force to avoid injuring the region. Remember that your hand is there to aid a deeper stretch in the neck. Keep your head in this position for 30 seconds, release, and then repeat for the other side. Perform this stretch twice per side.
6. Chest expansion
The next exercise is meant to expand your chest in order to relieve pain in the spine and help you resume an upright sitting position. You will need a counterweight, such as a spongy roll, or a rolled-up yoga mat.
Lean your back on the roll while maintaining a natural arch in your lower back and keep your chest elevated. Put your hands behind your head, placing your palms on the back of your neck, and lean down, and then straighten back up. Be sure to keep your chin up to prevent unnecessary stretching of the neck. When leaning back, focus on expanding your ribcage. During this exercise, your lower back should remain static.
7. Strengthen the shoulder blades
The goal of this exercise is to move the bones that connect your collar bone and your arm, in order to stretch and train your back muscles and help them provide full support for your spine.
Stand up straight with your shoulders loose. Move your shoulder blades towards each other until they meet, and remain in this position for 5 seconds. Release and repeat 5 times.
8. Thigh muscles stretch
The hip muscles provide support for our backs, but most of us never associate back pains with weak thigh muscles.
Begin by getting down on one knee, keeping it bent at a 90° angle, with your other leg pulled back, keeping your knee above your ankle.
It’s important to remember that performing these exercises once or twice a day will not counter 8 hours of sitting down, so make sure you’re aware of your posture when sitting and make an effort to take small breaks and perform mild physical exercise. However, following this routine will make it easier to resume a correct sitting position that won’t tire out your back.