The 5 Ultimate Desk Exercises for Office Posture

Updated: Sep 6

Office people will love these moves


The world is [not-so-slowly] transitioning into more and more remote and digital jobs, which can be great in many ways: freedom of location, flexible hours and more opportunities for everyone. However, much like everything else in life, this has a huge and undeniable flip side: aches and pains are no longer reserved for getting older. We may have to look no further than remote working and spending more time sitting than ever before. This sedentary lifestyle results in poor posture and it is having adverse effects on our physical health, contributing to tight hips, rounded shoulders, neck tension, increased mental fatigue and chronic pain.


In this post I will go over some stats and give you a quick science-y overlook of what sitting in the same position can (and most probably) will do to your body. Don't worry, I will also give you a list of bullet-proof office moves to do right by your desk, no gym or equipment needed! Let's get into it! Or, if you are in a rush, you can jump straight to the exercises ;)


Here are some scary numbers:


Pain is so prevalent in the office, between 23-38% of desk workers are suffering from lower back pain. Self-reported musculoskeletal symptoms are up, now having reached 63% of all office workers, particularly issues in the spine.


In a recent study on female office workers:

57.5% had consulted a health professional due to neck pain
42% had reduced their leisure activites due to pain
22.4% reduced their work a
This is when it gets even scarier: 35.3% of women stated they 'self-managed' their neck pain with conventional strategies. Of this self-managed group, 82.5% regularly used over the counter or prescription medication.

Whilst these medications can certainly help people find temporarily relief they should not be seen as a long-term strategy. There has to be a better, more natural way.


When it comes to pain and sitting, it's the lower back that takes the brunt of it. Driving 4 hours a day, in total, correlates to 66% of people experiencing back pain. Perhaps your commute time from the bed to the office chair may have significantly reduced, however, research still shows that awkwardly sitting or static sitting leads to an increase in lower back pain and symptoms of sciatica.


Less stats, more talk: it's not sitting, it's static sitting that's the issue


To throw in my two cents on sitting and increase risk of pain, I do not think sitting for extended periods of time is the main reason we have pain and stiffness, nor will optimising the one and only ultimate sitting posture with the perfect ergonomic set up to be the answer. Simply put,

we cannot maintain static posture and be healthy. We must shift our position.

Changing sitting posture is actually linked to a reduction in spinal loads and spinal shrinkage. Simply put, change your sitting position.

Babies are constantly moving, they fidget, cross their legs, sit on their left, sit on their right, wave their arms. They are constantly moving.


Common desk posture


Let's assume though, that you’re sitting in the same position for 7 or so hours. This means the following is occurring in your body :

Forward Head Posture 
Rounded Shoulders 
Upper Back Kyphosis (hunchback of Notre dame) 
Relaxed Core Lumbar Lordosis (large inward curve of the lower back)
Tight Hips
Tight Hip Flexors
Tight Quads
Inactive Glutes and Hamstrings
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It's not a pretty picture, right? That’s a long list of potential problems and I have only just scratched the surface.


The issue with posture misalignment is that there is a domino effect. A chain-reaction occurs and creates a host of other problems in the major joints and muscles.


Forward head posture occurs by focusing on small text on the screen. As you gaze forward and bring the neck away from the centreline of the body (the spine) the cervical spine begins to take the pressure. The shoulders then begin to rotate forward to assist the head and take some of the load. The upper back then begins to round, leading to kyphosis. Suddenly, reaching overhead to a cabinet or putting a shirt on becomes difficult due to not having enough extension in the upper back. I think you get the point.


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The body will always adapt to the posture we are in the majority of time. This is for your efficiency. It makes things easier. But it also makes pain more likely.


Solution: The Ultimate 5 Desk Exercises for Office Posture


So now that I’ve made you contemplate your bad desk posture, let's dive into what exercises to do to immediately start feeling a reduction in pain and tension. I recommend setting a timer to go off every 55 minutes and doing these 5 stretches to complete for 5 minutes, this way you'll be stretching each body part in this time. However, if you have one area that is particularly tense you can choose to target that area specifically.


Here's an overview of the moves along with a brief description. If you'd like a more in-depth explanation and cues, check out my video:

Stretching and Mobility


Hand-Clasped Shoulder Stretch with Neck Turns and Tucked Chin – 60s

This is a great stretch to counteract slumped shoulders from typing and help improve forward head posture.



Chair Hinge – 60s

This targets the upper back and helps get more extension in the thoracic spine so you don't develop that hunchback.



Bent Over (on-desk) T-Spine Rotation – 60s

The upper back also needs to be able to properly rotate so your lower back doesn't do all the twisting and end up in pain. This helps to open the chest, improve breathing and reduce tightness in the neck and shoulders.


Hip-flexor Stretch – 60s

This effectively targets those short and tight hip flexors from sitting all day, helping to alleviate hip pain and align the hips.


Seated Piriformis Stretch – 60s

The glutes are turned off when we sit all day. By stretching them we help to relieve tightness in the glutes as well as the back and hips


Conclusion


Good posture is a lot more than just standing up straight. Helping our bodies stay as aligned as possible will increase our quality of life, it'll help us prevent pain and injuries while making us feel more confident.

These 5 moves are easy and quick to perform and they will definitely make you feel better from day one.


I hope you've found this post helpful,


Gemma

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