One of the many negative health impacts of working in an office, or another environment where you’re seated for long periods of time every day, is poor posture. Most office chairs are designed for comfort, not ergonomics, and encourage you to sit in a slouch that’s unnatural and unhealthy. A slumped posture can lead to serious spinal problems and weakening muscles in the upper back. Luckily, there are some exercises you can do to work out your back and neck, counteracting the effects of the hunch.
1. Head Retraction
This simple exercise can strengthen the muscles in your neck, making it easier for you to sit and stand up straight. Lie on the floor with your legs folded at the knee and your back flat on the ground—use a yoga matt if the floor is painfully hard. Pull your chin in to your chest as far as you can and hold that position for 15-20 seconds. Release and repeat 5 to 10 times.
2. Cat Pose
This yoga pose is practically designed to bust your hunch. Get on your hands and knees like a feline, then stretch your neck left, right, forward, and back. Rotate your head counterclockwise, then clockwise. Arch your back to curl upward, hold that position, then come back down. Repeat the last part 5-10 times, taking breaks to rotate your neck in between. This is a great exercise to start your day and help you limber up.
3. Wall Exercise
You can counteract your bad posture by mirroring the posture you’d like to have with this exercise—and all you’ll need is a wall, making this a good one to do at the office in between tasks. Stand up as straight as you can against the wall. Tuck your chin into your chest and bring your head back to press against the wall. Then pull your shoulder blades back and down to press against the wall also. The pressure of the wall will keep your back straight.
4. The Superman
Clark Kent may be a schlubby office worker, but his alter ego has perfect posture, and you can too if you incorporate this exercise named after him. Lie on your stomach with your hands extended in front of you—yes, like you’re flying. Keep your head level and lift your arms and legs up to the ceiling, keeping them both straight at their joints. Hold this position for 3-5 seconds and relax. Repeat 10 times.
5. Foam Rolling
Foam rollers have become a must-have exercise accessory, and for good reason. For this exercise, place the foam roller under your mid back and lay on the floor with your knees up and your feet flat on the ground. Then push with your legs to slide your body upward, letting the foam roller move down on your back. Relax your legs to let the foam roller return to your upper back. Repeat for as long as you’d like.
If you’ve noticed back pain from sitting in an office chair all day, you’re not alone. You can start correcting your hunched posture and strengthening your back with the exercises above.