Challenge: Try to maintain good posture sitting up tall during the rest of this article!
If you work at a desk and typically sit for extended periods of time during the day, you may be suffering from more than just a case of the afternoon yawns. Sitting can leave you feeling exhausted, sore, and unmotivated at the end of a long day at the office, but it can do more.
Good posture means maintaining correct alignment of your body in a seated position, while standing, and during motion. Most people believe they pay attention to posture during sitting, but after a few minutes at the desk we start to slump. Being able to maintain good posture is a combination of flexibility, strength, endurance, and awareness.
Over time, sitting in the same position can negatively impact your natural posture and the way your body is intended to move. Sitting is excellent for resting from activity, but the body’s posture is more natural when standing or lying down. Our bodies are designed to be in motion, not static all day sitting in a swivel chair. Even if your desk is completely ergonomic, your body is still going to be locked in certain positions during the day.
Posture is both static and dynamic, it is a combination of the numbers game. Meaning, the average person spends roughly seven hours a day sitting at work, then add in driving time, meals, Netflix, and other activities. This can add up to over twelve hours a day sitting. No amount of exercise you do during the week can make up for the sheer amount of time spent in poor position while sitting.
Ultimately, you are going to slowly but surely reset your natural posture to accommodate the posture you maintain at work. On its face this doesn’t sound too bad but resetting your body in this way will create havoc on your muscles and joints.
How Exactly does Sitting Destroy Posture
When your muscles are stuck in the same position for hours on end, day after day, they begin to resize themselves to accommodate these habitual, long-term sitting sessions. Let’s take a picture of how working in a seated position for years has taught your body to semi-permanently alter itself:
Your back and posterior shoulder muscles are overextended from having your hands placed on a keyboard or writing on a desk.
Your chest muscles and biceps have learned to remain contracted from having your hands and arms out in front of you.
The low back and shoulders have rolled forward, which can cause low back pain and increase your chances of shoulder injuries.
Your hip flexors and quadriceps have tightened from staying locked at or near a ninety-degree angle.
All of this causes uncomfortable knots in the muscle groups that have been contracted while you are sitting (pectoralis, anterior deltoid, abdominals, and hip flexors, to name a few).
What Does this All Mean?
Are you familiar with that uncomfortable, hunched-over look that most of the older executives, bosses, and managers at your company have? Terrified of the back, shoulder and knee joint pains that your colleagues complain about?
Take a good look, because that is going to be you in a few years if you don’t do something about it. I’ve found that the majority of my clients (age ranging from mid-twenties to early thirties) who work at desks during the day are already beginning to have postural changes, aches, and pains. The majority of them experience shoulder issues, low back pain, tight hips, and poor form when bending and lifting, which can lead to knee and back injuries.
Altering natural muscle lengths affects posture and strength and can also decrease circulation to certain muscle groups and areas of the body. So how can we start correcting these problems and work on preventing further postural deviation and injury?
Benefits of Foam Rolling and Self Myofascial Release (SMR)
Foam rolling and other methods of SMR are excellent ways to alleviate pain, help muscles return to their normal lengths, increase circulation, and decrease your chances of chronic pain in both work and activity.
Think of it this way: the muscles that are contracted all day while sitting at a desk have developed knots in them. Putting pressure on those knots with a foam roller or other SMR tools like a lacrosse ball will help massage the knot out so the muscle group can return to its intended length.
Working on your posture may mean adjusting your work space, investing in different furniture, and spending time to develop new habits. Think of it as a start-up cost to the future of your own health and performance. It will take more time and money in the short run but should save you from injury and years of pain in the long run.
Take It to Work
One of the best features about foam rollers and other SMR devices like lacrosse balls is that they are inexpensive and portable. Bring them with you to work and leave them in the office. Take 10 to 15 minutes during your workday or lunch break to roll out your trouble areas.
If you’re in the Melbourne area and would like further information on the benefits of foam rolling please contact-us to speak to one of our personal trainers.
Challenge Check-In: Did you maintain that posture during the entire article or have you started to lose it?