Spend a long day with your butt glued to a chair, and your back, neck, and hips will tell you everything you need to know about the damage office work can do to us. But studies in recent years have shed light on how bad it is for you (spoiler: It’s super bad).
In addition to wreaking havoc on your muscles and bones, a 2011 study showed that even after one day of prolonged sitting, there can be a decline in insulin response, which can contribute to diabetes and other diseases over time. It’s also been linked to increased risk of colon, breast and endometrial cancers.
And if you come away from the day feeling like your brain has been replaced with bubble wrap, it’s not just fatigue from battling your inbox; the lack of movement means we get less blood pumped to our brains, hence the decrease in cognitive function. Add to this the stress that accumulates from working non-stop for a long stretch of time, and the picture isn’t pretty.
Pretty crummy byproducts with this whole “earning a living” thing, eh? And while you may be tempted to opt for a standing desk that’s become all the rage in recent years, experts contend that it’s not quite the magical fix it’s purported to be. Same goes for swapping your desk chair for a giant bouncy ball.
The treadmill desk isbetter than all the aforementioned options as far as keeping your blood pumping, though a recent study showed it can hamper your ability to think and type (well, duh).
So what options do us sedentary types have to combat derrière-at-desk fatigue? It’s pretty simple: Get up every once in a while and stretch.
Allison Mayer, a middle school counselor by day and certified yoga instructor by night, understands the struggle of being stuck to a seat cushion all day when really, you and your bones should be moving around. Below, she recommends four stretches you can do at your desk to keep the sore back at bay, while giving yourself a boost of energy.
Simple seated twist
Inhale to lengthen the spine, and then exhale, bringing left hand to right knee. Your right arm will support your spine from behind.
“This simple stretch helps you open the heart, rinsing out and replenishing the fluids in the spine. Repeat the twist to the other direction to even it out,” Mayer says.
Inhale to lengthen the spine, then exhale and cross arms at the elbow. Reach your hands up, intertwining them, if possible, or else have the back of your hands meet. Lift elbows away from the chest, bringing your upper arms parallel with the floor. Stay in this position or fold forward.
“This is a great stretch to improve the poor posture we have been subjected to from typing and desk work. It stretches and releases the muscles between our shoulder blades and neck, which often take the brunt of our stress. Be sure to repeat this stretch with other arm on top,” Mayer says.
Seated figure 4
With you feet flat on the floor, bring a flexed right foot on top of the left knee, working to bring the right knee parallel with the floor.
“This one helps you get into the outer hips via external hip rotation. At also activates the glutes. Add in a forward fold for an additional spinal stretch, or eagle arms to relieve lower back strain. Repeat on other side.”
Find a drishti,which is Sanskrit for “focal point.” From a standing position, shift the weight to your left leg while your right leg is utilized as a “kickstand.” You can also bring it to your calf or inner thigh, but take care not to place pressure directly on the knee. Place your hands on the heart or reach up to the sky as branches.
“This is a great hip opener, as it activates our external hip rotating muscles. Tree pose, as with all balance poses, require mindful focus and body awareness. Use the pose on particularly stressful days or times when you need a mental reset.”