Do you find yourself sitting at a desk, driving, reading, and texting practically all day every day? Majority of Americans today have jobs that require them to sit and stare at a screen. Research shows that Americans sit for an average of 13 hours every day. Now add the number of hours we spend sleeping (or trying to sleep) and it is very clear that our lifestyles have become very sedentary.
Another scary fact is that 80% of Americans experience low back pain, costing roughly $50 billion a year. Unfortunately each year, this number is growing. As a personal trainer, I see clients every day with pronated (rounded) shoulders, heads hunched forward, low-back pain, weak core and tight hips. This is extremely common for someone who sits at a desk for an extended period of time.
Research is also showing a strong correlation between too much sitting and early death. This is because excess sitting typically means the individual is not very active. Lack of inactivity can lead to cancer, obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.
So how do we fix this problem?
The simplest change we can make is to stand up frequently. Take a walk during your lunch break, get up and walk to the drinking fountain or bathroom, or simply stand up a few times at your desk and stretch. Mobility and stretching plays a huge role in combatting the desk life. As we type at our computers we may find ourselves hunched forward and slouching. It is important to stretch our chest. A simple doorway stretch helps to lengthen your chest and shoulder muscles, allowing you to sit with a straighter back. It is also important to mention that in the beginning this will require conscious effort. Right now it is habitual to sit hunched forward. It will take constant reminding to sit up straight, tighten your core, and keep your shoulders back. Hold each arm for 30 seconds to 1 min. Repeat 3-5 times each side.
Someone with pronated shoulders typically has weak back muscles. Below is a back exercise, band pull aparts, that will strengthen your rotator cuffs and rhomboids, helping to correct your posture! You get a nice back AND we get rid of back pain, win-win! Hold arms straight out in front about shoulder height. While holding onto band, move arms apart, pinching shoulder blades together at end of movement. Slowly bring arms back to starting position and then repeat. Perform for 3 sets, 15 reps each.
Glute bridges are another exercise that not only will tone your booty, but it will also strengthen your core, which is super important to maintaining correct posture and reducing back pain. Lay on your back, feet hip distance apart. Tighten your core, drive hips up, pressing into your heels, while squeezing glutes at the top. Perform for 3 sets, 20 reps each.
Lastly, here is a hip flexor stretch to help combat tight hips that can cause a lot of pain and discomfort when sitting for long periods of time. Take your time with this stretch and really let yourself breathe into it. I am demonstrating a deep lunge (option to place knee on the ground). My opposite hand reaches up and over to get a little extra stretch. 10x each side. Hold for 5-10 seconds.
I recommend doing these exercises 3-4 times a week. The good news is that poor posture CAN be corrected and low-back pain and other symptoms from sedentary lifestyles can be diminished! It just requires a little bit of effort and consistency. I promise you the results are worth it and will save you a lot of pain and money in the future.