The modern workplace is wreaking havoc on your health. Spending long hours hunched over a computer, sitting through endless meetings and commuting to and from the office disrupts the body’s natural alignment.
As a result, your shoulders lurch forward, placing undue stress on your neck, hips and back. When one or both of the hip flexors are locked up -- a natural result of sitting all day -- your body sends signals to the opposite muscles.
This shuts down your glutes and makes the hamstrings less efficient. It creates a relationship where the hip flexors are dominant and the glutes submissive, which inevitably leads to back pain.
In our office, we make it a point to say "posture" when we're walking past a colleague and see him or her slouching. Some people even set their computer screen savers to show the word. It's a terrific reminder.
Mark Verstegen, founder of Athletes’ Performance and Core Performance
First, Fix Your Posture
You already know sitting all day is bad for you. Don't make it even worse with bad posture. Performance coach Mark Verstegen, founder of Athletes’ Performance and Core Performance, suggests re-setting your posture frequently throughout the workday.
"In our office, we make it a point to say 'posture' when we're walking past a colleague and see him or her slouching," Verstegen says. "Some people even set their computer screen savers to show the word. It's a terrific reminder."
If you’re standing with perfect posture, your ears should be in line with your shoulders, your hips aligned with your knees and your knees directly over your ankles. If you’re seated, there should be a straight line between your ears and hips.
To reset your body’s alignment, start with your glutes. Squeeze your left butt cheek, and then the right. "Unless you reactivate your glutes, no buns-of-steel workout is going to make a difference," Verstegen says.
Next, pull your shoulder blades back and down, as if drawing them into your back pockets. Finally, pull your bellybutton away from your belt without holding your breath. This activates the transverse abdominis, the first muscle that fires during movement, and protect your lower back.
Make it a point to perform this series of posture checks throughout the day, especially when you’re stuck in a meeting, sitting in traffic or on a rambling conference call.
Try This Workplace Workout
Regardless of whether you’re able to squeeze a full training session into your day, it’s still possible to fit exercise into your work day, even in business attire and with limited space.
Verstegen recommends an active series of Movement Prep warm-up exercises that increases your core temperature; activates your nervous system; lengthens, strengthens, stabilizes and balances your muscles; and prepares your body for movement.
"Movement Prep re-establishes the mobility, coordination and joint stability you enjoyed in your younger years while improving your strength, balance and coordination," Verstegen says.
Though Movement Prep can be a warm-up to a workout, it’s also a way to reboot your system mid-morning or mid-afternoon. Or for those crazy days when you don’t get to the gym, it’s also an effective 10- to 15-minute standalone workout.
Here are four moves you can do in the office, either in flats or without shoes:
1. Lateral Lunge
Stand with your feet just outside your shoulders. Shift your hips to the right and bend your right knee, keeping your left leg straight. Your feet should be pointing straight ahead and flat on the ground. Push through your right hip, returning to the starting position. Then switch side. Continue, alternating sides, for 10 reps per side.
2. Single-Leg Balance With Reach
Balance on your left leg. Bend at the waist and elevate your right leg behind you. Reach forward with both arms. When you feel a stretch in your hamstring, return to the starting position by contracting your left glute and hamstring. Repeat the movement, alternating legs with each rep, for 10 reps on each leg.
3. Knee Hug
Stand with your back straight and arms at your sides. Lift your right knee to your chest and grab your shin. Pull your right knee as close to your chest as you can while contracting your left glute. Return to the start and repeat on the other leg. Continue alternating sides for 10 reps per side.
4. Walkout With Downward-Facing Dog
Lean forward from the waist and walk your hands out into a push-up position. Raise your hips into a downward dog yoga position. Hold for one to two seconds and walk back to standing position. Complete 10 reps.