They say sitting is the new smoking, how bad is it really to sit at a desk all day?
Sitting is definitely bad for you, although I don’t think it is nearly as bad as smoking. The health risks for sitting are both postural and stagnating circulation (the reason it is said to be worse than smoking). Turns out, leading research says that all you need to do is stand up for a few minutes every hour and to do light exercise. You don’t have to run a marathon or cross fit in order to stave off the heath risks of sitting, just get your water cooler on (Pilates is great too!).
Is having good posture enough to help combat the problems you can develop from sitting so much?
Good posture is essential for the health of your spine and hips. People usually think about posture as just “standing up straight”. It actually means maintaining your spine’s natural curves, which requires body awareness, strong trunk muscles (read: abs & back muscles) and a healthy amount of flexibility.
Do you think things like ball-chairs and walking desks really make a difference? They seem a little much.
I haven’t been impressed with ball chairs. The idea is that the ball chair is instable, which makes your abs work during the day. What I have found is that people still slouch, but then they are using muscles to hold a slouched position, which is ultimately worse for your body.
Standing desks are great, especially for someone with low back issues, it really helps resolve the psoas* tightness that pulls on the lower spine and assists with lower trunk strengthening, just by standing – so cool!
*The psoas is an important postural muscle that attaches your spine to your leg
We’ve also read about posture bras. Have you heard of them? If so, what do you think?
It is much more beneficial to work on shoulder and pec flexibility and strengthen your upper back. Then your body naturally does what the brace was doing for you. These are fundamental elements you will learn in any good Pilates class.
How is Pilates related to posture?
Pilates builds core strength (which is way more than just your global abdominals guys!) teaches body awareness and stretches inflexible muscles, all essential for great posture.
These kinds of stretches are most beneficial after a work out, to help maintain long term flexibility changes and lubricate joints in the spine and shoulders. Half of healthy posture is flexibility and the other half is strength of the back and abdominals, so this is the perfect follow up to a strength focused pilates class.
Begin facing the wall and extend arm on an upward diagonal placing hand onto the wall. Then rotate your body away from the wall until you feel a stretch through your pectoral muscles. It is great to do the pec stretch after the pec release since the release addresses the fascia and the stretch addresses the muscle.
Pec release with ball
Place pinky ball in the nook where your clavicle and your shoulder meet, then lean into the wall to apply pressure. You can gradually roll down towards the under arm to release the pec muscle. A tight pectoral muscle can pull the shoulders forward, so regular release work is a great addition to healthy posture.
Extension Stretch with Roller
Using an exhale press down through your hands and engage your low belly, lats and upper back (NOT NECK) muscles to roll yourself up as high as you feel comfortable. If you feel any discomfort in your low back roll down a little bit (decreasing your range of motion) and engage low abdominals more deeply. Take two breaths at the top, then roll back down. Repeat about 20 times. This stretch & strengthen exercise stretches the abdominals while engaging and strengthening the back extensor muscles (all the muscles you need to stand up straight). These guys really need to be strong!
This classic stretch is wonderful for decreasing overall tension in the back by increasing flexibility in the diagonal abdominal and back muscles as well as lubricating spinal vertebrae. All of which spell a healthy spine and postural system.
With both hands interlaced behind the back draw shoulder blades all the way together. This is another great chest opening stretch.
Look diagonally downward, then place hand onto head to create a gentle traction. You should feel the stretch in the opposite side of the neck. Tight neck muscles are a component to unhealthy forward head posture and shoulders that stay permanently lifted. Stretching can help those shoulders drop back down to a healthy position.