For most desk-job workers, sitting at a desk for hours at a time is unavoidable. And when this happens, it’s hard to maintain a perfect posture. Despite our best intentions, as the day goes on our shoulders round and our heads start to inch forward closer to our monitors. This “bad desk posture” can cause serious health problems over time.
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When you chronically slouch at your desk, the muscles on the back of your neck and shoulders begin to lengthen and become underactive. Your chest muscles, on the other hand, become tight and shortened. These muscle imbalances can result in permanent muscle deformities over time, if not properly corrected. Luckily, some exercises can help you reverse these imbalances before it’s too late. These five exercises will make it easier for you to maintain good posture at your desk. For best results, it’s important that you do them regularly — daily, if possible.
1. Chin Tuck
Steps: Start sitting or standing with your shoulders rolled back and down. While looking straight ahead, place two fingers on your chin, slightly tuck your chin and attempt to draw your head directly back without tilting it up or down. Hold for two to three seconds and return to the starting position. Repeat the exercise 10 times.
Why it’s effective: This exercise helps reverse that “forward-head” posture. It’s also effective at relieving neck pain and headaches.
2. Shoulder Retraction
Steps: Begin by standing upright with your feet hip-width apart, shoulders down and back and a neutral head. Bend both elbows to a 90-degree angle, keeping your triceps glued to your sides and your forearms out in front of you. Begin to move your forearms to the back of your body until both hands are parallel to your sides, squeezing your shoulder blades together throughout the entire movement. Hold the end position for five to 10 seconds. Complete three to five repetitions.
Why it’s effective: This exercise strengthens the muscles that are responsible for keeping your shoulder blades retracted, making it easier for you to avoid the urge to round your shoulders when you’re seated at your desk.
3. Doorway Stretch
Steps: Begin by standing in a doorway with the right side of your body close to one of the door jambs. Assume a staggered stance, with your right foot in front of your left. Lift your right arm so that it’s parallel to the floor and bend your right elbow to a 90-degree angle so that the fingers of your right hand are pointing toward the ceiling. Maintain this position, placing your right hand and forearm on the door jamb. Slowly lean into your raised arm and push against the door jamb until you feel a gentle stretch in the chest and right shoulder — hold for 20 to 30 seconds. Repeat this exercise three times with each arm.
Why it’s effective: It loosens the tight chest muscles that become shortened when you chronically slouch at your desk.
Steps: Start by laying on the floor in a prone position (on your stomach, facing the floor). Extend your arms straight out in front of you so that they are parallel to the ground. Lift your arms and legs off the ground as high as you can while still keeping your stomach and pelvis pressed into the floor. Hold this position for five to 10 seconds, squeezing your shoulder blades together. Return to the starting position and repeat three to five times.
Why it’s effective: Although this exercise is commonly known for its butt-toning abilities, it’s also great for combatting the rounded-shoulder effect that frequent sitting has on many of us desk job workers.
5. T-Spine Mobility Exercise
Steps: Begin on all fours, with your knees directly underneath your hips and you hands underneath your shoulders. Place one hand on the back of your head with your elbow pointing toward the floor. Rotate your chest until your bent elbow points towards the ceiling. Lower back to the starting position and repeat the exercise eight times before switching arms. Pro tip: Make sure that you’re keeping your hips square and your lower back as still as possible throughout the entire movement.
Why it’s effective: A lack of mobility in the thoracic spine can cause your shoulders to slump forward due to inactive upper-back muscles. This exercise will help you regain mobility in your upper back, allowing you to stand upright and taking some of the weight off of your lower back.
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