Many of us are office bound for most of the day, seated behind a desk on a flimsy chair. We seldom get up from a typing position and when we do, it is for a meeting where we sit down again or to the water cooler/coffee machine where we slump for the few minutes before returning to our scrunched up seated position.
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In the world of exercise, we call this constant slumpy standing or seated position the fatigue posture. Fatigue means tired, without energy, weary or worn out. Many of you are nodding and saying; “This is so how I feel every day!” With reason I am sure but what are the negatives to this fatigued posture?
Upper back muscles
The primary reason for your neck and/or back pain is the tensed position of the upper back muscles. Those poor guys are working overtime to keep you somewhat upright all while they are doing jobs they were not made to do.
The slumped-in position of the chest causes your lungs to be cramped in with very little room to expand during inhalation. Little good air in means little toxins out which leave you feeling tired and sluggish. If your head is slightly forward, you are actually putting strain not only on the muscles of the neck and upper back but also loading the spine with more weight than it is made to carry. This can lead to all kinds of back issues, including arthritis and disc related issues. How many of us sit with our heads forward all day in front of our computers? Exactly.
So, at work, here’s what you can do:
- Get up every 30-45 minutes. Get up and walk around, move your shoulders in little circles, half-circles with your neck.
- Put your hands at your sides, palms facing the floor and push down your shoulder. You’ll start to feel down your arm and for some it will feel even a little tingly as you activate those sleepy nerves. Do one side at a time.
- Put a cushion behind your back if you tend to slump in your chair.
- Push your chest out a little (not military style!) and pull your shoulders back when you sit. You’ll feel how your upper back tires quickly but this only means those muscles have forgotten their job and need to be reminded.
- Tighten your abdominals. Put your hands on your hips and dig your fingers in on the front. Now cough. That tightening you felt? That’s what you want to feel when you tighten your abdominals. That muscle is a key posture muscle and needs activation otherwise you will have a little belly pouch growing and growing. See it as your 1800’s corset dress.
When you get home, stand facing the mirror. Check for your nose, chin, breast bone and pubic bone to align all the way down to your feet. Now turn to your side. Ask someone to check for your ear, shoulder, hip, knee and ankle to align. Is it? If not you are placing great stress on the body which will come to haunt you later, if it isn’t already.
The thing is, the better your posture, the better your energy levels, the better your confidence and the happier your body will be. It’s taking that old school term, poise and reintroducing it to yourself. We always admire women with poise. Now become one!
Izanne Reichert is a part-time lecturer and assessor at eta and, together with her husband, run a personal training business in the northern suburbs of Johannesburg. To contact her, email firstname.lastname@example.org