One thing that many of you may not know about me is that back in college I first majored in engineering and information management before making the leap to exercise physiology. I know they are as similar as icecream and broccoli (both of which I love), but I decided early on that I didn’t want to be stuck at a desk for 9 or more hours a day. Well that and I had a healthy addiction to exercise and a passion for helping people move and be healthy.
Since the creation of the internet, our society has greatly moved from the blue-collar work of the past and is being sentenced to white collar jobs. Working at a desk for 40+ hours a week is just like you are being charged for a crime you didn’t commit. Research has proven that slouching at your desk has numerous negative side effects such as lumbar lordosis and anterior pelvic tilt, both of which cause low back pain as well as contributing to cardiovascular disease. If you are interested, here is the research abstract at PubMed.com.
Some of the exercise that you do in the gym will help to counteract some of these negative consequences, granted you are doing the right things. Or will it? New research says that the 5 45min workouts you do a week will still place you in the sedentary category and does little to combat the 60+ hours a week you spend at a desk. This doesn’t include TV time once you get home to relax after a long day of sitting. Even worse are the people who sit on machines at the gym. So we sit at work, sit at the gym, and sit at home. Simple solution: get off your ass.
More importantly than making you fat, being inactive is causing tightness in areas such as your hips, shoulders and spine and creating weaknesses and imbalances throughout your body. Rather than getting into semantics, being “active” means more than just running on a treadmill and doing a couple pushups on a regular basis. It means getting out and doing non exercise activities such as playing sports or other activities, gardening, doing yardwork or hiking. I got out and did Franconia Ridge last weekend and it was spectacular and highly recommended.
In an article in this month’s Men’s Health, Bill Hartman, C.S.C.S. talks about how our bodies adapt to what we do the most. If we are used to sitting for 10-12 hours a day, our body will get really good at sitting with detriment to other functions like standing, walking, jumping and all the other stuff we have evolved to be able to do as humans. So in addition to nonexercise activities, Hartman recommends getting out of your chair multiple3 or more times a day and doing posture correcting exercises like these.
- Make sure you contract the buttocks of your rear leg to extend the hip.
- Raise the hand on the same side of your rear leg over your head and slightly bend towards your opposite side.
- Hold 30 seconds and repeat on the other side.
- Stand with your back against a wall with your butt, back, shoulders, head, and forearms in contact with the wall.
- Start with your arms in the shape of a W and slide them until they form a Y. Hold for 3 seconds and return.
- Repeat 10-12 times.
For your spine: Chair Mobilization
- Sit so the back of your chair is just below shoulder blade level.
- Place your hands behind your neck and bring your elbows together.
- Bend back and push your elbows upward as your exhale and hold for a count of 3.
- Repeat 10-12 times.
So the next time you ask the question “How much should I work out?”, my answer will be “All the damn time!”. Schedule regular workouts for strength training, cardio, pilates, or whatever you enjoy to help you burn some fat and increase your fitness but more importantly, do the things that counteract bad desk posture and stay active. Also, set goals and make small choices that will move you towards them. Fitness is more than just working out at the gym so don’t get sentenced to the chair.