Let’s face it, our bodies are nightmare vessels designed to cause us nothing but pain as they ferry our brains around.
Why else would more than one in five people suffer from back pain? Back pain, which is often caused by poor posture and inflexibility, and leads to all sorts of other symptoms such as emotional distress and depression.
Poor posture is often caused by having a desk job, but what can you do about the fact that many jobs require you to sit in a chair all day?
You can’t even escape this by exercising: You go to the gym, work hard, only to find that you’ve spent hours building all sorts of muscle imbalances. Your bench press might have given you a bigger, stronger chest, but now your upper back is miserable. You can’t win.
Or can you?
First: Fix Your Habits, Talk to Professionals
Naturally, you should be sensible: if you are experiencing a lot of pain in any part of your body, go and see a doctor. Not all of your issues can be solved by a blog post on the Internet.
When you’re sure you’ve not got a more serious issue at play, something like Phrakture’s Starting Stretching routines are a widely regarded base for improving your flexibility, which in turn will help you correct your posture. The original post has some outdated links, so here’s a more useful video.
It only takes 15 minutes of your day. Though you won’t see results immediately, stick with it for at least a month and see what happens.
I know, it sucks, because unlike cardio which will make you burn off body fat and increase your stamina, and lifting which will increase your muscle mass, there’s no pleasing direct or aesthetic reason to be doing all this extra work.
Consider it a kind of maintenance that just needs doing, like brushing your teeth and washing your face.
Core Activation and Strengthening
Having a weak core can cause all sorts of muscular imbalances as other parts of your body struggle to take up the slack. If you’re going to make one change to your life, start doing plank as a daily exercise.
There are plenty of guides to the dos and don’ts online, such as this one. This not only strengthens your core, but helps you recognise how you are activating it during the day, or not, as the case may be.
Once you’ve got bored of just sweating in the same basic position, feel free to switch it up by following some of these agonising Youtube tutorials.
Add Symmetry to Your Training
Strength training can do a lot of good for your posture, but it can also leave you a little imbalanced, depending on the nature of your programme.
Symmetric Strength can help you work out where your strengths and weaknesses are. Strong anterior deltoids but weak upper traps? Time to think about adding some new weights to your routine!
Avoid “Easy” Fixes
Posture braces: do they work? Unless you’re actually injured in such a way that a doctor recommends one, using a posture corrector such as a back brace won’t fix your problems.
While it can help when you have an injury, using something to hold your posture in the right position can often weaken the muscles required to actually give you better posture, because the brace is picking up all the slack on their behalf.
Stop Sitting At A Desk All Day
There’s plenty of evidence to suggest that sitting all day is bad for you: a University of Leicester study suggests that you need at least two and a half hours of exercise each week just to mitigate the damage it does.
Our desk job lifestyle is linked to everything from back pain to increased risk of death. Surprise! It is also disastrous for your posture and flexibility.
The obvious fix is a standing desk, though this isn’t always possible, and some tentative studies suggest there might actually be health risks associated with standing around all day as well!
“Bike desks” that add pedals to exercise with can certainly be a great way to lower these health risks, but they’re not necessarily a fix for your posture, and possibly aren’t an option at your workplace.
A potential solution is to get up for a walk and to stretch a little, and to do this regularly. If you’re using the Pomodoro technique (as we’ve recommended on a few occasions), you have a five-minute break every half hour in order to do these.
This study suggests that walking for just two minutes every hour can lower health risks at a rate of 33%.
In addition, here are some suggestions that you can do at your desk, or sneak off to do in the bathroom or outside. You’ll also find a million identical infographics telling you the same information on how to sit properly, but you’re absolutely better off just getting out of your chair a few times each hour.
In Conclusion: Mix and Match
Hopefully these suggestions will give you something to work with. Pick the ones that seem most relevant, and don’t try to make too many changes at once! And as always, make sure you speak to a professional before you do anything new or potentially injurious.
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