In addition to this, the “desk posture” we adopt leads to certain musculoskeletal adaptations. By sitting and using our arms in front of us (at a keyboard), we tend to develop tightness in the chest. This leads to weaker muscles in the upper back. Over time, this can cause a forward shoulders hunched posture. In the hips, sitting leads to tight hips flexors and weak glutes. The weakened glutes force the hamstrings and low back to become overactive to compensate for the inactivity of the glutes. Over time, these musculoskeletal changes can lead to low back pain, upper back pain, etc.
Can exercise counteract prolonged sitting?
Research has come to two different conclusions when it comes to whether or not exercise can counteract prolonged sitting. One conclusion is that no amount of exercise can counteract prolonged sitting. The other conclusion is that exercise can improve health outcomes, even with prolonged sitting. I tend to agree with the 2nd conclusion. Expecting exercise to “counteract” another habit is unrealistic. Everything we do is cumulative, and thus, while we cannot counteract prolonged sitting, we can improve health outcomes by exercising before or after prolonged sitting at work.
In addition to exercising before or after work, taking some time for more activity in the office can also be a very effective way to combat the effects of prolonged sitting. Activity trackers nowadays have reminders that will remind you to get up and move at certain time intervals. I would also recommend adopting an office stretching habit 1-2 times per day. Stretching will increase performance in physical activities, decrease your risk of injuries, help joints move through their full range of motion, and enable muscles to work most effectively. Print out and try to implement this office stretching handout. I’m here to help if you have difficulty understanding any of the stretches.
Standing a little more each day tones muscles, improves posture, increases blood flow, ramps up metabolism, and burns extra calories.