If you're like many people, your office chair knows the curves of your @ss better than your significant other does. You spend the day chained to your desk without much other than lunch and a few coffee breaks to keep the blood flowing to your lower limbs.
Although many of us try to maintain an active lifestyle, 45 minutes at the gym can't counteract eight hours or more at your desk. This sedentary lifestyle can wreak havoc on our bodies and leave us with stiff, pain-filled muscles and joints.
For some, passing neck pain is the worst they experience. But for others, chronic back pain, reduced flexibility, and a weak core are daily reminders of inactivity.
If you are proactive, you can work to beat pain and inflexibility. Learning the common issues that arise because of a sedentary work life and performing regular exercises that help to combat these problems, will help you feel your best - despite those mind-numbing meetings and long hours glued to the computer screen.
While maintaining good ergonomics is definitely something you should practice, it's not a fix-all. You can have the best-supportive chair in the world and still suffer from neck and shoulder pain if you work long, stressful hours.
Here are some activities you can do at the office and at the gym that will help you combat back, shoulder, and neck pain and stiffness.
Make time to incorporate movement into your day. Here are some things you can try:
1. Use A Timer
For those of you who are dedicated to your career and often lose yourself in your work, hours may pass by before you even realize that you've hardly shifted your position. If this describes you, you need an outside reminder to notify you that it's time to move.
Set your timer to go off once per hour. When it rings, get up and walk around. Go take a walk to the bathroom, get up to get a glass of water (staying hydrated is equally important throughout the work day for proper concentration and focus levels), or have a push-up contest with your cubicle-mate.
Even if you're up for only two minutes, it's still activity that will get the blood flowing through the body and increase the oxygen flow to the muscle tissues. This can go a long way toward preventing end-of-day stiffness.
2. Perform Regular Stretches
The second thing you should be doing in the office to help reduce tension- related pain is to get up and stretch.
Neck rolls, shoulder rolls, hip-circles, and side-bends all help to loosen tense muscles. Also, to ease your sore hip flexors, place one foot on your chair and lean into it slightly.
When doing these stretches, make sure to breathe deeply - this will help you relax into a deeper stretch. Hold the stretch for 20-to-30 seconds and then relax before repeating a second time through.
If you can do this 3-or-4 times per day, you should notice a significant difference in how you feel by 5 p.m. - which will feel like a different, more limber sort of happy hour.
Reach for the stars, stretch for success.
3. Incorporate Tension and Relaxation Techniques
At your desk, do tension/relaxation exercises. This technique involves tensing the muscle as hard as you can, holding it for 10-15 seconds, and then relaxing it while exhaling as much air from your body as possible.
As you exhale, think about completely relaxing your muscle.
This exercise works great with the traps, the middle back (squeezing the shoulder blades together to promote better posture), the arms, the core, the hamstrings, the quads and glutes. Work your way through your entire musculature. You'll feel noticeably more relaxed.
To finish off, get down on the floor and perform a plank. Hold this isometric contraction of the core region for 30-to-60 seconds.
To summarize, incorporating these activities into your day will help you feel better and more primed to attack your day. Aim to do these exercises at least twice per day:
At The Gym
Here, your primary focus needs to be on:
- Strengthening weak muscles with resistance training
- Enhancing heart health with cardiovascular training
Just 20-30 minutes of cardio done three times per week will go a long way toward improving your health and energy level.
The primary muscles we'll target in the workout below include the traps, lats, general back, core, and hip flexors. Strengthening these muscles will help prevent discomfort at work. (We can't help you with your boss though, sorry).
Strengthen your back to beat your seat!
If you can get into the gym and run through the following exercises, along with any others that you may want to include at least twice per week, you should start seeing a noticeable difference:
With these gym and office activities, your daily grind can be a less-painful experience.