What you need to know:
Being Sedentary and sitting long hours every day decrease your body’s need for strong postural muscles. Altering progressively the quality of your posture.
You cannot be physically fit if you do not balance the strength of your muscles around your joints. These muscle imbalances are the culprit of poor posture and chronic pain.
Your body is a very complex architectural mechanism which needs balance to function well. Imagine your spine maintained into position thanks to your muscle as would a mast be by its shrouds.
To maintain the mast straight the shrouds have to apply the same Force on both sides and so do your muscles (or chain of muscles) with your spine and joints.
Indeed, your spine needs balance, or more precisely structural balance, to function well and so do your joints.
What are the consequences of poor posture?
When structural balance is compromised, it can affect your posture which can lead to:
– An increase of the risk of injury inside and outside the gym.
When structural balance is missing, the muscles around the joints can develop different pathologies such as locking into spasm (the so famous “I have done my back in) or even creating tendinitis when training.
You should always take notes of these signs and take immediate action to correct the culprit of the issue. Sometimes only getting some rest is not the solution!
– A diminution of strength levels.
Remember that you are as strong as your weakest link. When training a muscle or a movement, if the muscles stabilising your joints/body into position are weak, it can results in less power output. That means that your body will slow down the signal from your brain to protect itself as some muscle might not be able to complete the lift securely.
– It can increase stress levels.
Postural Imbalances can lead to tightness of the diaphragm (The muscle responsible for getting air inside your lungs). This can create poor breathing patterns and lead to anxiety.
Anxiety, aside from diminishing your well being, will have a direct impact on your body composition by elevating cortisol output. In other words, your posture is now making you more prone to store fat around your belly and will make it harder for you to build muscles and recover from your gym sessions!
– It can affect digestion (bowel movement).
Having a slouched position can compress your digestive organs and contribute to digestive problems such as acids reflux and constipation.
Posture and sitting:
We all know it, today’s lifestyle involves more and more time sitting. Whether we are at work, in our car or eating lunch, we can sometime spend more than 80% of our day sitting down.
Your body was built to move and this maintained static position can severely harm our health as well as our level of fitness. That being said, the idea is not to quit your desk job and work as a waiter, but instead find strategies and exercises to undo the long term effects of the sitting position.
Strategies to improve your posture and get fitter:
Apply the following principle for a good posture:
A great principle of Joseph Pilate’s method is the Power house, It is identified as the centre of the human body. To apply it simply pull your belly button inside your spine and contract your pelvic floor (Imagine yourself deeply wanting to go to the toilet but you are 10 min away from home). Do this while gently pulling your shoulder blade backward and keeping a neutral spine position (Straight back).
Struggling with it all? Or too much to think about?
Try to be as tall as you can when standing or sitting. In other words, imagine someone pulling the top of your skull with a string.
Here you are! The foundations of a good posture.
Use anti sedentary behaviour at work
If your job requires long hours sitting on a chair In front of a computer You should imperatively apply these 3 little tips to avoid bad posture, low back pain and hips tightness.
- Replace your chair with a gym ball. (contrarily to a chair, the gym ball provides little support when sitting on it. Try to slouch forward and the ball will roll and you will lose balance. The secret here is to keep a good posture and plant your feet on the floor to stay on the ball)
- Don’t allow yourself to sit more than 30 min in a row. Lack of movement is what can really cause your joints to stiffen. The trick: put a reminder on your phone and get to drink some water far away from your desk. Also, keep in mind that sitting for 6 hours every day increases your risk of death by 20% compared to those who only sit for 3 hours. (According to the American Cancer society 2010).
- Stretch as often as you can. Imagine flexing your arm without moving for hours, eventually it would be very hard to straighten it. Similarly, the same thing can happen with your legs and more specifically with your hip flexors (the muscles situated at the front of your legs) when sitting for too long.
When exercising a particular group of muscles you should always think about strengthening its opposite. People tend to prioritise exercising muscles that they can see (“mirror muscles”) and end up developing bad posture and get injured at last (we all have the image of the hunched forward man who keeps exercising his chest, biceps and abs).
Unfortunately this kind of approach leads to even more problems when coupled with long hours spent sitting. Instead prioritise working your glutes , erector spinae (muscles running down along your spine, also called postural muscles as they erect your spine), rhomboids and rotator cuffs.
Replace the treadmill warm-up with some mobility work.
The idea here is to precisely target the area which are getting stiffer when sitting or simply getting older and mobilise them. This sequence of exercises will take you about 10min to perform and will positively impact your session in the gym.
The Chest stretch:
The cat and cow:
The quadriceps stretch:
The hip mobility sequence:
Anthony a really interesting and informative article. Having a desk job I try my best to move away from my desk on a regular basis but not always possible. I know now why I am so stiff when I get up after even an hour at my desk. I shall put some of your suggestions in place. Will be interesting to see how my boss reacts when I ask to replace my chair for a ball. Thanks as always for covering subject that are real to every day life.
Thanks Shahenaz. The University of Minnesota recommends using a ball one size larger than you would for typical exercise. I reckon a 65cm Ball would be best for you.
Good luck with your Boss!