About a month ago, I wrote about the perils of sitting for several hours a day. Today’s column is related to that one, and get ready, because it comes with a challenge for you.
In the previous column, among the various other harms that I discussed that can affect the body from sitting too much, I mentioned harms concerning your posture.
Our posture is profoundly affected by our sitting habits. Why? Because whatever you do every day is guaranteed to affect the state of your musculoskeletal system.
Many of us, myself included, exercise bad tendencies when sitting. We crane our necks forward to read from computer screens, which are often too far away. This stretches the cervical neck muscles unnaturally and results in what I previously referred to as “computer neck.”
Another common bad tendency is to lean to one side while sitting. Personally, when I’m thinking at my desk about one of my tasks, I often rest my elbow on one of my armrests and place my head on my hand. Imagine the imbalance in back and neck muscles that could result from doing that several times a day.
Finally, how many of you will admit to being “slouchers”? I’ll speak for myself again and say that I am definitely guilty of this bad habit, in which I allow my body to sag low in my chair, with only my head and upper back remaining on the back of the chair. This improperly stretches your neck, and also pulls your lower back in such a way to promote possible imbalance in the core muscles.
With that said, let me give you your challenge. For the next two weeks, I challenge you to perform two simple exercises every single day for the purpose of correcting muscle imbalances. Those exercises are the plank, and another exercise I like to call the “duck neck.”
Plank: Lying on your stomach with your forearms and toes resting on the ground, lift your body so that it is as straight as a board. Your body should form a straight line between your ankles and your shoulders. Start at 10 seconds and increase daily by five-second increments until you reach 30 seconds. This strengthens the whole core musculature, including abs and lower back.
“Duck Neck”: Standing as straight as possible, tuck your chin and pull your neck back as far as possible. You can perform this exercise standing against a wall and pulling your head back until it touches the wall. Hold for at least 10 seconds and increase daily by five-second increments until you reach 30 seconds. This strengthens the posterior cervical (neck) muscles.
In addition to performing these two exercises every day, it’s also important that you pay attention to how you sit. Pay attention to the following:
Ensure that your back is straight while sitting. Any time you find yourself slouching, straighten up.
Avoid leaning toward your computer screen. Consider moving your monitor closer and increasing text size on the screen.
Leave your desk periodically to do something else, especially when you get tired. Stretch, take a restroom break or talk to a co-worker. Whatever you do, make sure you leave your desk. This will help you prevent the tiredness that results in unhealthy slouching.
Feeling particularly excited about this challenge? Take some before-and-after pics to monitor your progress during these next two weeks. I want to hear from you, too. Send me an e-mail or tweet me at
Shawn McClendon is an ACE certified personal trainer and owner of the health/fitness blog www.YourHealthAtTheCrossroads.com. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.