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Spending too much time seated and working on a computer can wreak havoc on the back. And with the COVID-19 pandemic, everyone’s routines are off.
People are working in different spaces, sitting for prolonged periods, and dealing with extra stress. Studies show that movement and exercise are key ingredients in combating back pain.
This article will present exercises that are best for preventing back pain and will show you how to do them without equipment, in almost any space.
Health Risks Associated With a Sedentary Lifestyle
Sitting for prolonged periods of time has been shown to increase your risk of obesity, high blood pressure, metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease, and some forms of cancer. (1)
Thus, it is essential to take a quick break and stand and stretch yourself once every hour while working. It will do wonders for your back and will also help prevent serious health issues.
Workplace Exercises to Strengthen and Relax Your Back
Whenever you have the opportunity to take a break and move, focus on three key areas for the greatest impact:
- Building strength
- Improving mobility
- Incorporating aerobic exercise
Studies show that by focusing on these, you build strength to support the lumbar spine, improve the flexibility to increase the range of motion and functional movement, and also increase blood flow and nutrients in the soft tissues of the back. (2)
1. Building strength
a. Building core strength and stability
The muscles in the core of the body play a key role in keeping the body upright and balanced by supporting the bones. These are also essential for the proper functioning of the musculoskeletal system. However, prolonged sitting can weaken these muscles.
When I’m working with my clients, there are three key exercises that I include to improve core strength and stability that require NO equipment at all:
- Superman or locust pose
- Spinal balance series with cat, cow, and cobra poses
Including these exercises in your routine helps build your core strength. Moreover, their difficulty level can be upgraded as you get stronger by increasing their duration or adding elements to the exercises.
b. Building glute strength
Glutes refer to the largest movement and power muscles in the body. Their proper functioning is essential in preventing back pain.
The glute muscles turn dormant while sitting at a desk or anywhere else. Therefore, movement is necessary to wake them back up. The easiest and quickest way to do so is standing up and squeezing the butt cheeks together.
I routinely incorporate these three exercises that do not require any equipment into clients’ workouts to improve their glute strength and help reduce back pain:
- Glute bridges
- Donkey kicks
These exercises can also be modified to suit your difficulty level.
2. Improving hip mobility
Hip flexibility and mobility play key roles in preventing back pain. A study for chronic low back pain demonstrated that hip mobility exercises are more effective than conventional therapy for lowering low back pain and disability. (5)
Therefore, exercises that allow hip extension are necessary to manage low back pain since when sitting, the hips are constantly flexed. This is backed by various chiropractors, physical therapists, and sports massage therapists.
For hip mobility using no equipment, you can’t go wrong with these three exercises:
- Hip swings
- Reverse lunges
- Pigeon and lizard poses
3. Incorporating aerobic exercise
Maintaining one posture for long while sitting, driving, or working can tighten your muscles. Therefore, movement is the best thing you can do when you feel stiff or sore to help loosen the muscles.
It has been observed that aerobic exercises stimulate blood flow to the soft tissues in your back. Improved blood flow aids in the healing process. (2) These exercises can also help improve overall health and reduce stress.
You can go walking, ride a bicycle, or even take an online class. Aerobic exercises increase your heart rate and blood flow and include cardio workouts as well. And remember, whatever exercise you choose, the most important thing is to get up and move!
Customized Office Furniture to Ease Back Pain
Many companies are giving their employees the option to have a standing desk. Request for one!
Many doctors will provide a prescription for a standing desk for you. In case you are concerned about the possibility of standing all day, don’t. Most models allow users to go from a seated to a standing position, allowing you to choose whether you want to sit or stand.
Prolonged sitting or activities that involve repetitive lifting or carrying can induce muscle tightness and tension, often causing a backache.
You can generally prevent this problem by improving your posture and taking breaks for movement.
Read Further on Back Pain
This chapter is part of the Back Pain: Reasons, Risk Factors, and Treatment series.
In the next chapter, you will learn about the 6 Yoga Poses to Reduce Back Pain When Sitting All Day.