When I was working in a desk job I thought that as long as I do some intense exercise afterwards then I will be ok.
This would offset prolonged sitting all day.
Yet this couldn’t be further from the truth.
I was guilty of focusing on the wrong type of exercise in an attempt to counter the negative impacts of sitting.
I went for long runs straight after work.
I did high intensity exercise.
I went to fitness classes called ‘bodyattack’.
As if my body wasn’t already under attack from a desk job!
Now this type of exercise isn’t bad. But this post is about what’s the best type of exercise to do immediately after sitting down all day.
The context is key. So do you think that going from sitting down for 8 plus hours straight into an intense workout is a good idea?
Exercises like running or weight lifting without an adequate range of motion can actually just ingrain dysfunctional movement.
Also, if you have a stressful job, it is likely that the hormone cortisol is running through your body. Doing intense exercise might increase cortisol and therefore put your body under even more stress.
And I’ve already written about how stress plays havoc with your health and will hinder any attempts to lose weight or allow your body to function optimally.
Mobility exercises are essential for human movement
I’ve previously discussed that prevention is better than cure when it comes to a desk job with some tips on how to sit less and move more in a desk job and be more productive at the same time.
After all, our bodies are designed to stand and move!
However, if you can’t prevent sitting for prolonged periods then a good strategy would be to prioritise some simple mobility exercises to help with a full range of motion and that can also relax the mind.
This will help reduce stress and assist your body to be able to function and move as it should be able to without it becoming an obstacle for you.
Doing more intense exercise is still good for you but if you sit down for long periods of time then mobility exercises are best to maintain your ability to be able to move like a human should do.
Common postural abnormalities and how to fix them
The two most common issues related to having a sedentary desk job are anterior pelvic tilt and rounded shoulders.
Anterior pelvic tilt is a very common postural imbalance entailing the forward rotation of the pelvis that pushes the bottocks out and arches the lumbar spine (lower back). Over time this leads to a much weaker core and can affect the glutes and hamstrings. It is caused by muscle imbalances which is commonly caused by a sedentary lifestyle.
Rounded shoulders is when your shoulders fall forwards and inwards on one another. It is commonly caused by slouching which again is common in a sedentary lifestyle. When you slouch, the necks natural forward curve often becomes exaggerated leading to rounded shoulders and neck pain.
However, below are some quick, simple and yet super effective exercises to improve mobility and counter rounded shoulders and anterior pelvic tilt. They focus on shoulder, hip, upper and lower back mobility as well as core strength.
Doing all 5 exercises will only take about 10 minutes and you should aim to do these at least 3 times per week. I’ve included approximate duration and repetitions but as always, the quality of the movement is more important than anything else.
1.Doorway chest stretch – this stretch is amazing for opening up the front of your shoulders, helping to improve your posture and likelihood of rounded shoulders.
- While standing in a doorway, place both hands on the door frame
- Lunge forward
- Pull your shoulders back and down
- Bend your front knee until a stretch is felt along the front of your chest and/or shoulders
- Take some deep breaths and hold for 30 seconds
- Repeat 3 times
2. Bum to heel stretch – this stretch is great to relieve lower back, hip and neck pain which are common in desk jobs.
- Start in kneeling position on your hands and knees
- Move bottocks toward heels, extending your arms with palms facing down on the floor
- Take some deep breaths while you sink deeper into the stretch and hold for 30 seconds
- Come forward on all fours to relax and then repeat 3 times
3. Glute hip bridge – as the name suggest, this exercise is great for glute strength which become weaker in a desk job. It is also good for hip flexibility.
- Lie face up on the floor, with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground
- Keep your arms at your side
- Lift and push up using your hips off the ground until you form a straight line and squeeze those glutes by pretending to hold a credit card in between your cheeks
- Brace your core as you would if you were about to get punched in the stomach
- It’s essential you squeeze your glutes and brace your core to ensure you don’t overextend your back
- Hold for 3 seconds before coming back down in a controlled movement
- Remember to breathe by inhaling on the way up and exhaling on the way down
- Repeat 10 times
4. Dead bug floor slide – this is one of the best exercises for improving rounded shoulders and shoulder mobility.
- Lie on your back with hips and knees off the floor at about 90 degrees
- Keep forearms flush with the ground with a 90 degree angle at the elbows
- Brace your core as you would if you were about to get punched in the stomach and push your lower back into the floor. This will make sure you don’t engage your lower back
- Slide your arms up above your head and then drive the elbows down
- Repeat 10 times
5. Pigeon pose – this is one of the best exercises to open up your hips and counter the shortening of hip muscles and any tightness gained through a desk job.
- Start on all fours in a squared table pose
- Slide right knee forward toward your right hand and pointing out to the side
- Slide your left leg back as far as your hips will allow
- Keep your hips square to the floor to ensure you are not over engaging your back
- If you don’t feel a stretch on your right glute, slide the right foot forward a little until you do
- Remember to engage the core and take some deep breaths
- Stay in this position for 30 seconds and then swap legs
- Repeat 3 times on each leg
Ask yourself how are you compensating for not doing what you were evolved to do?
The dangers of sitting are becoming more apparent.
The common solution is to focus on high intensity exercise such as running or weight lifting to counter this.
However, this is not the optimal type of exercise to counter prolonged sitting and to maintain your bodies ability to be able to move as it should be able to.
Rather, mobility exercises are best.
You don’t a gym or any equipment and it’s super simple and quick. So try out the above exercises and reap the rewards!