Sit at a Desk All Day? We Asked a Physical Therapist What To Do About It

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It’s currently month who-knows-what of working from home. After months of jumping from the couch to the desk to the kitchen table, I finally decided it was time to upgrade my WFH situation to a legit office setup (#adulting). But thanks to the countless hours I’ve logged hunched over a laptop, I’ve noticed my posture has gotten worse, my neck and shoulders are stiffer than ever, and my back is in knots. Sound familiar? I think all of our bodies could use a major mobility tune-up, but who has unlimited funds to have a masseuse on speed dial (a girl can dream)?

According to JustStand.org, the average person sits for 12 hours a day. If you’re like me and go from sitting at a desk to sitting on the couch after work, those hours are much longer. With endless to-do lists, back-to-back meetings, and unlimited binge-worthy Netflix shows, it’s easy for me to let hours pass without moving. So how do we be more mindful throughout the workday and feel our best? I asked my physical therapist Kayla Hamm, PT, DPT at Myodetox to share her top tips and tricks to giving your body all the TLC it needs. The best part? They won’t cost you a dime. Read on for Hamm’s expert advice and four at-home mobility movements that will have you saying “bye-bye” to your aches and pains and “hello” to a healthy bod. 

 

Meet the expert
Kayla Hamm, PT, DPT
Physical Therapist for Myodetox
Kayla Hamm is a licensed physical therapist and personal trainer in West Hollywood, California with a background in sports rehab and performance training. She has worked with a wide range of professional and college athletes as well as patients dealing with chronic pain and neurological dysfunction.

 

How to change up your routine for a healthier body

 

1. Build movement breaks into your schedule

We rely on our calendars to keep us on task and make sure we don’t miss a beat. If it’s not scheduled into our busy day, chances are, it won’t get done. Therefore, Hamm suggested adding a minimum of three to four 10-minute movement blocks into your schedule. The idea is to stop what you’re doing when that reminder pops up and get your blood pumping. These movement breaks will allow your mind and body to come up for air and, in turn, prevent burnout (yes, please!). Even just a 10-minute walk on your lunch break or a 10-minute yoga flow in between meetings can make a huge difference.

 

2. Switch things up

I don’t know about you, but I can work for hours straight without even realizing I haven’t moved once all day. As tempting as it might be to power through the workday at your desk, Hamm advised against it. “Changing positions every hour is ideal,” she said. For example, the change can be as simple as alternating between sitting and standing, moving from your desk to a couch so your body can sit in different positions, or heading to a nearby coffee shop to fit in a quick walk and change of scenery. And if you do like standing (we stan a standing desk!), “it’s OK to shift your weight from left to right. You don’t have to stand rigidly and distribute your weight evenly all the time,” Hamm explained. Whether you park it at home or turn your favorite coffee shop into your office, think of changing your position every hour.

 

3. Start your day on the right foot

Picture this: Your alarm goes off and you immediately reach for your phone to scroll through Instagram (after hitting snooze a few times). We all do it, but taking the opportunity to move your body instead of scroll through your phone is crucial. Hamm said to ditch the phone and get yourself moving first thing in the morning. “Whether it’s walking your dog, following a stretch video on YouTube, or jumping on your Peloton, making movement a priority sets the tone for the day,” Hamm said. Bonus points if you get your sweat on, but it doesn’t have to be long or rigorous in order to make a drastic difference in your body. “Do something intentional with your body every morning, even if it’s 15-20 minutes,” Hamm suggested. Your body will thank you.

 

 

Poses to try at home

Below, Hamm breaks down four easy-to-do mobility movements you can do at your workspace or at home. Spoiler alert: Not only will your posture improve and your stiffness dissipate, but Hamm said that these exercises have also been shown to decrease cortisol and increase work performance. Need I say more?  

 

1. Seated Cat-Cow

Take a seat at the edge of your chair with your feet planted hip-width apart. Placing your hands over your chest, inhale and begin lifting your chest and eyes up toward the sky, lengthening through the back of the spine. As you exhale, turn your gaze down and bring your chin toward your chest. Continue to deepen the stretch by rounding the back until you’ve come to your end range. Alternate between these two movements about eight to 10 times as you inhale and exhale. 

 

2. Seated Figure Four

Sit up tall in your chair with both feet planted hip-distance apart. Cross your right leg over your left thigh, then place the outside of your right ankle just above your left knee, creating a Figure “4.” Slowly hinge forward without rounding the spine until you feel a mild stretch on the outside of your right hip. Hold this for one to two deep breaths. Return to the starting position and repeat five times before switching sides. 

 

3. Standing Lateral Line Stretch

Stand with the right side of your body next to a wall or chair with your feet shoulder-width apart. Step your right foot over your left and drive your hips away from the wall or chair. Next, raise your left hand up toward the sky and gently reach toward the wall or chair until you feel a stretch along the left side of your body. Return to the starting position and repeat six to eight times before switching sides.

 

4. Standing Posterior Chain Stretch 

Stand behind the back of your chair and fully extend your arms forward, placing your hands about shoulder-width apart on the chair. Keeping the arms outstretched, slowly shift your hips back while softening the knees until you feel a light stretch in the back of the legs and arms. Hold this position for one to two deep breaths and then return to a tall standing position. Complete six to eight reps.

 

How to Improve Your Posture While Working From Home
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