Posture, posture, posture.
Everyone wants it, few have it, and we’re always talking about it, aren’t we?
Well, it’s a hot topic for good reason – having good posture is key to maintaining a healthy body. It’s as simple as that.
At Motus I spend a lot of time talking about the big three – mobility, flexibility, and strength. And all three are tools that we can use to realign our bodies – to have better posture. And when things are better aligned, there is less resistance and more glide. Fewer challenges and more opportunities in your movement.
And then there’s the societal element, that research has shown that people find you more powerful when you walk and stand up straight.
So, sit up straight and read on, because we are going to cover 5 of my favorite tricks to sneaking in some corrective exercise throughout your normal workday. Consider these your daily habits for better posture.
1. Reverse shoulder rolls
I’ve written about these before and I’ll continue to do so because it’s one of the simplest things that you can do anywhere. Unlike some of the other exercises below, shoulder rolls can be done discretely, whether that means in your cubicle, in the elevator, or anytime you need a break from the computer.
The rationale for doing this movement daily should be apparent to all of you office dwellers. When we work on computers for long durations – long duration meaning upwards of only 60 minutes – our shoulders and upper spine are pulled forward (among other things).
Here’s what you do: From an upright torso position, and this could be either standing or sitting straight up, raise one shoulder towards the ceiling and then pull it back and down in a circular motion. Just let your arms hang down and focus on a nice smooth, and relatively slow, motion.
Try rolling both shoulders backwards in unison, then alternating. I think it’s more fun to do the latter, personally.
And what about forward shoulder rolls, you ask?
I don’t think it’s necessary. I agree with what Brian Bowen of Integrative Health in Denver told me – that your shoulders are encouraged to roll forward enough during your normal day, you don’t need to remind them.
2. Master the 30 minute walk
Ideally, over your lunch hour.
The idea is to get you outside and get you moving. Sunshine, breeze, and all the subtle sensory input that comes along with a walk outside are all good things.
I can almost hear the multitudes of you saying “But I don’t have the time!”
Yes, you do.
Even if you need to schedule your next meeting as a “walking meeting,” you have time. It’s only 30 minutes, dude. Plus, you’ll probably come back more productive than had you pushed through and skipped the walk. Of course, then you’d be stuck indoors for upwards of 8 hours straight, and who wants that!?
And don’t think that a 30 minute walk means you can’t have a purpose. Consider this: instead of grabbing coffee in the break room, walk to the café 15 minutes away.
Something to keep in mind is your footwear. Dressy office shoes are not always good picks for walking. So, keep a comfortable pair of loafers or walking shoes in your office.
Oh yeah, and bonus points, if you end up walking over uneven terrain.
3. Decompression breathing
This is something I picked up from the Foundation Training folks. It’s very simple and other fitness modalities and practices have their own version that looks similar, but it’s the same general concept.
Just as with the shoulder rolls, this is something that you can do seated or standing, so it’s office safe (but if you have an opportunity to stand, then stand!). Here’s what you do: Standing straight with your chest up, place your palms on your abdomen, with your thumbs aligned at your rib cage and your pinky finger at the iliac crest of your pelvis.
Now, take a deep breath and feel the expansion. Your rib cage rises and your upper body should feel as though it’s lengthening. Here’s where things get interesting. As you exhale, instead of trying to compress everything back to its original position, think about maintaining that new space that you created on the inhalation. Now take another deep breath and try to lengthen again.
Repeat this breathing procedure again for a total of 8 – 10 reps. When I really focus and give this exercise an honest attempt, I really feel like I’ve worked the intrinsic postural muscles. It’s more of a workout than you think!
It’s a great exercise because after a couple of hours at the computer, you’re basically sitting in compression. So take some time to use this decompression breathing technique and you’ll feel like you hit the reset button.
4. Hang from something
This can be a little tough in the office environment, but if you’re clever, I think you can find someplace to hang from. Most of us will probably resort back to a door jam, and that’s just fine.
The whole idea is to find something that you can grab on to and offload either a portion or all of your bodyweight. And we’re not talking pull-ups here, just a simple dead hang. It’s an excellent opportunity for you to apply tension on your spine – to show you body the opposite load that it has been seeing for the remaining 8 hours that you’re in the office. Do this for 5 seconds or a little longer, it’s up to you. Don’t think of this as a workout, but a corrective stretch. And if you’d like to go up a notch, use one arm.
5. Give yourself a double chin
What I mean by a double chin is to press your head backwards, thereby creating the illusion of a double chin.
Why do we do this? Again, it’s pretty much the exact opposite of what you are doing for 8 hours a day – you’re letting your neck creep forward with each keystroke. Before you know it, your cervical spine just gives up and says “OK, fine, I’ll just stay this way!”
So, give yourself a break and every so often while you’re seated working, take a finger and press your chin back while maintaining a neutral head position (that is, don’t let your gaze tilt downwards or upwards). Hold this position for a few moments and then release. Treat this movement like reps in the gym. Do however many you like and then get back to work.
What do you think? Easy enough, right?
The five items above are very simple movements and won’t help you stand up straight overnight. But they are a step in the right direction. And most importantly, I hope the idea of sprinkling movements throughout your workday will help you to realize that your office is just another space. It’s just another box. There is no reason that you can’t move. It’s what humans do. Whether we are wearing our office hat or not – we move.
By Ryan Wagner
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