In 1970, roughly one-fifth of all Americans had sedentary jobs that forced them to be inactive for hours each day. Thirty years later, that rate increased to two-fifths, and is likely even higher today.1
While there is nothing wrong with having a career that largely ties you to a desk, it can certainly wreak havoc on your spine.
The sedentary slump
When you sit for hours at a time, pressure is placed on the vertebrae and discs in your lower spine. This differs from when you are standing or walking with proper posture as your upper body is more balanced and fluid over your lower body.
Problems become more evident if you sit using improper posture. For instance, one study published in the European Spine Journal found that sitting in an awkward position for more than half the work day can increase your risk of lower back pain.2 This may explain why so many office workers struggle with back issues, contributing to back injuries being the “nation’s No. 1 workplace safety problem.”3
Additionally, by sitting in the same spot for too long, not only do your discs and vertebrae suffer, but so too do your muscles. This means that you may feel tension in your chest and back areas, causing some discomfort or pain after not moving around for a certain period of time. Fortunately, desk yoga can help.
Join the movement
Performing desk yoga regularly can help release tight muscles, potentially easing desk-related back pain. What is desk yoga? Desk yoga consists of poses you can do without ever leaving your workspace.
With that in mind, here are some simple exercises to try courtesy of beYogi. Hold each pose for a few breaths before releasing and returning to the starting position:4
- Roll with it: Sit on the edge of your chair with your feet at a wide stance and your hands at shoulder width on the desk in front of you. Use your feet to slowly slide your chair back, leaning forward to stretch your back, shoulders, and sides.
- Side stretch: This one starts in the same position, except you’ll want your chair slightly back so you are leaning forward at the beginning of this pose. Take your hands and move them slowly across the desk to the right as you lean in just a bit more, feeling a stretch in your left side. After holding, slowly return to the starting position before moving your hands to your left, stretching your right side, too.
- Work-appropriate twister: Again, sitting on the edge of your chair, place your right hand on edge of the seat behind you, twisting your body in that direction while keeping your left hand on your right knee. Look over your right shoulder as you hold the position, then return to the starting position before doing the same thing on the left side.
These are just a few desk yoga poses to help you stretch muscles that typically become tight from sitting and potentially reduce the effects that a sedentary job has on your body. In addition, get up and move around every 30 to 60 minutes. The more movement you can pack into your day, the more your spine will thank you.
1 Owen N, Sparling PB, Healy, GN, et al. Sedentary behavior: emerging evidence for a new health risk. Mayo Clin Proc. 2010;85(12):1138-1141.
2 Lis AM, Black, KM, Korn H, Nordin M. Association between sitting and occupational LBP. Eur Spine J. 2007;16(2):283-98.
3 U.S. Department of Labor. “Back injuries – Nation’s #1 workplace safety problem.” https://ehs.okstate.edu/training/oshaback.htm. Accessed May 2015.
4 Gatto T. “Move it or lose it: 5 desk yoga poses for corporate crusaders.” beYogi. Retrieved from http://beyogi.com/desk-yoga-poses-corporate-crusaders/. Published January 30, 2015. Accessed May 2015.