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3 Do-at-Your-Desk Exercises to Avoid Becoming Chair Shaped

This guest post is by Dr. Kathryn Woodall of Indestructible Desk Jockey.

Do you spend a lot of time tickling the keyboard to crank out a blog? Then you’ll want to listen to this.

When you were a child, did your mother ever say, “Keep making that face and it’s gonna stay that way?” If you’re anything like me, you probably just brushed her off and stuck out your tongue.

Well it turns out your mom was right—sort of.

Your body has a remarkable ability to adapt to environmental stressors. We know this from weight training. Repeat a movement often enough with a challenging weight and the body grows new muscle. It adapts in such a way that the movement becomes easier to execute.

Trainers refer to this as SAID: Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands. But the thing most people miss, the flip-side of the SAID principle, is that same thing happens with any task we repeat over and over. Whether you want it to or not.

If you sit at a desk all day, it becomes easier and easier to stay that way. Your muscles and connective tissues adapt and the fascia becomes thick and leathery, until your body actually becomes chair-shaped. The same thing happens to your wrists when you spend a lot of time typing blog posts, texting on a mobile device, or playing video games. They adapt to that position.

The good news is, you can prevent these unwanted changes from becoming permanent by taking a couple minutes a day to perform these simple exercises.

Banish the desk jockey hunch

Very few people in our modern world are “hunch immune.” Commutes, conference tables, computer stations and La-Z-Boy chairs—they’re all conspiring to reshape us in their own image!

And it’s a self-perpetuating cycle. The more you hunch, the more your pecs and biceps tighten up, and the more you get pulled into that hunch… And yeah, this applies even if you usually blog in one of those overstuffed coffee shop chairs.

Thankfully, you can have a straight back again. It’s simply a matter of releasing tight tissues periodically throughout your day while simultaneously awaking and activating their “antagonists”—the muscles of the rear shoulder and upper back.

You’ll do this by lifting your rib cage up and forward, and then extending your mid spine to the back. Check out this video of the exercise so you can see how it’s done.

Keeping your thoracic region open and well balanced is a key to improving your overall wellbeing. You’ll breathe better by freeing up your lungs. You’ll look better—tall and proud—and people will interact with you differently. Your body language has a profound affect on your mood, so you’ll probably also notice an increase in positive feelings.

Best of all, you might find that chronic lower back and/or neck pain begins to fade away. Lack of mobility in the thoracic region can actually manifest as pain above or below those regions.

Release your shoulders

The Double Handcuff is a simple but effective release for your shoulders, and it’ll go a long way towards righting that forward hunched posture so typical of folks who spend their time writing for fun or profit.

Here’s how it’s done:

  • Clasp your hands together behind your back.
  • Stand tall, with a neutral spine and maintain that alignment throughout.
  • Lift your shoulders to your ears, roll them back, and then drive your arms down towards the floor.
  • Hold this post for 30-40 seconds.
  • Check out this video demonstration of the movement.

You can practice the Double Handcuff throughout your day, and bang out a few each night to put the perfect polish on your evening.

Mobilize your wrists

This one’s easy. It’s pleasant. And it only takes a few minutes.

It’s also the most important exercise on this list if you spend more time googling and blogging than you do standing upright.

Just make a loose fist and circle your wrists through their full range of motion. First in one direction, then the other. Smooth out those “clunks” and work through the clicks and pops—as long as it doesn’t hurt. If you experience pain rather than discomfort, get yourself checked out by a competent health care practitioner.

You can see a video demonstration of the movement here, along with several other wrist releases. You’ll benefit from these whether you’re an accomplished typist or a thumb shuffling Blackberry belle. Just six to eight slow, smooth reps in each direction is enough to make progress. Even better if you can do them a few times during your day.

Some of these exercises will give the overworked blogger immediate relief. Others might require a bit of practice to make permanent changes to your “WordPress posture”. They really do make a difference. Give them a try.

Dr. Kathryn Woodall, DC is the author of Indestructible Desk Jockey. Dr. Woodall spent 15 years in private practice helping patients rediscover and maintain vibrant and healthy lives, and she now enjoys bringing that experience to a broader audience as an author and consultant. She published her first novel last year, and, when she isn’t writing, she enjoys exploring local trails with her dog or spending time with friends and family.

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Comments

  1. God, I’m hope I’m not at the computer long enough to need these exercises!

  2. USEFUL tips; thanks for sharing them with your readers here!
    Sincerely,

    Mariette

  3. Hi Kathryn,

    Take hourly breaks to lighten up. Move around. Walk. Breathe deeply. Attract prospering ideas and people with greater ease. Love the tips here.

    Block up your day. Move. Static bodies create stagnant minds. Work lightly, and intelligently, by moving every 40 minutes to an hour. Set an alarm. Drop everything. Get up, and get active.

    Combine these breaks with desk exercises and you’re set.

    Thanks!

  4. Jason V says:

    Another fun fact: sitting for 8+ hours can be as deadly as smoking! Is it any wonder that stand-up desks are selling better now than ever? :)

  5. Saad says:

    Great Article I Love The Title, its really funny :)

  6. Nina says:

    Even though I have a stand-up desk at work, I can feel my neck & shoulders getting tensed, when writing rapports … Your post is relevant, fun & well written!
    Thx for the excersices :-)

  7. Ayaz says:

    Excellent tips and certainly holding in one position can give you lots of problems and doing exercise even only 10 to 15 minutes can release all your stress and ease your body parts.

    Thanks for sharing great tips.

  8. Great Tips! After 8 hours in a chair yesterday, today will implement some of these exercises!mthanks for the tips. – Andrew.

  9. Earl says:

    Standing up or walking around once in a while helps too. But if you have to stay at your desk, these three are really helpful.

  10. Oh man! So funny. I keep vowing to dance around to Lady Gaga on Pandora every 2 hours, but sometimes I get on a writing roll and next thing I know it’s 5 and I’m fatter! And STiff! I’ll look up this Doc’s blog tho. Thanks!

  11. Warren says:

    I spend obscene amounts of time at this desk of mine, and lately I’ve noticed when I finally stand up I feel like it’s moving day all over again. I’ve started taking 10 minutes after every hour (might sound like a lot, but not when you’re on here 12 hours a day LOL)
    This is a great time for me to move around and try these.

    Cheers

  12. Doggles says:

    Absolutly brilliant! This truly works!

    One minor piece of advice – you say “crank out a blog”. What you mean is “crank out a post” . A blog is a website. Sorry but around here it was only a matter of time before someone pointed it out.

  13. Thanks for this post. I think I also need this because I often sit in a chair in front of my computer and doing less exercises. Months ago, every morning I go and have a brisk walk with my dog at least 30 minutes a day. Your tips are very helpful specially now I don’t have time to exercise.

  14. Joy says:

    Great tips. Thanks very much. All I have to do now is make sure my hourly breaks don’t take me towards the fridge!!

  15. Mr.X says:

    These are very handy tips. However, why not just get up now and then after 30 minutes and stretch yourself? My working time makes me stay in front of the computer for 14 hours. However, these 5-10 minute stretches keeps my body away from adapting to a single posture!

  16. Arun says:

    Thanks for the tips, it would help to us……

  17. john says:

    Thanks for the tips.

    Learn more about muscle twitches. I know there is much anxiety related to these twitches as these have various causes and some of which are still a mystery to the medical field. Lets help one another on this.