Everybody knows it’s not healthy to sit at the desk all day but nevertheless many of us are forced to do exactly this, day after day. So we have asked sports therapist and healthy lifestyle expert Gianna Thiess what we could do to keep our bodies healthy and relaxed in the office. Read what she has to say about it – and even more important: try out the very useful small exercises she shared with us!
Does it make any sense at all to try and do some exercises for our back, neck and the rest of our poor sitting body?
Absolutely! Otherwise my job wouldn’t exist... not only is it good for your back and body to move once in a while during an entire day in front of our computer, but it also gives the brain and the eyes some time to relax.
Are there some small tricks and exercises I can do in the office without using much space and disturbing my colleagues? And if I only can stop concentrating on my work for some minutes?
That’s actually why I came up with these exercises – they don’t need much time, space and they definitely won’t make any noise. Maybe they even inspire your colleagues to join you for a five minute break! Of course there are a lot more exercises you could do but I always prefer to only start with one or two. Also it is better to only do a five minute “workout” than to not do any workout at all. Five minute sessions, two to three times a day, can already make a big difference in regards to back pain from sitting at a desk for the entire day and will give your brain some time to relax.
Are there some general advices on how to sit in a more healthy way? What should I pay attention to?
The best way to sit is the position I describe in my first exercise. You should try to make sure you sit straight, both feet parallel on the floor with your knees in an angle of 90°, pull your navel towards your spine. The height of the desk and chair are also important. You should be able to have your arms lay on the desk with your elbows in an angle of 90° without pulling your shoulders up too high. Also, the screen you’re looking at should be always right in front of you so that you don’t have to turn your head to look at it.
I know it’s fun to roll around on your office chair but try to stand up whenever you can, like going to the printer or anywhere else. Also try to not wear clothes that are too tight around your waist because this may influence the way you’re breathing. If clothes are too tight you will automatically start breathing into your chest and not into your belly (which is the healthier way of breathing). Breathing into your chest can cause tense shoulders and neck muscles.
Last but not least take care of how and what you’re eating and drinking during your working day. Give your body and brain some energy back through vitamins and healthy brain food like nuts or raw chocolate instead of sweets or chips. And make sure you drink enough water or herbal tea without sugar.
Exercise while sitting down to stretch your neck and thoracic spine muscles:
1. Make sure you sit straight, both feet parallel on the floor with your knees in an angle of 90°. Pull your navel towards your spine (whenever you do exercises whilst sitting down, this is always the starting position).
2. Interlace your fingers behind your head. Spread your elbows wide, breath deeply into your belly and feel your stomach expand (as seen on the picture above).
When exhaling bend your chin forward (as far as you can) and try to close your elbows in front of your head (see picture below). Make sure that you’re not pulling your head too much. In this position you should feel the stretch in your neck and thoracic spine
3. Whilst breathing in, spread your elbows again and focus on your breath ...
4. Let your eyes follow the movement up and down
5. Continue doing this exercise combined with your breath for about one minute. Your breath will dictate your speed of the movements
Do this exercise whenever you feel your neck is tense from working in front of the computer or as well to give your eyes a break from the screen.
Exercise whilst standing at a wall to strengthen your back muscles, between your shoulder blades. This will result in a good posture and less neck tension:
1. Stand about one foot away from a wall, both feet parallel and aligned with your hips on the floor and bend your knees a little bit.
2. Pull your navel towards your spine and make sure your bottom, your back and your head are touching the wall.
3. Have your arms straight, facing down and let the back of your arms touch the wall (palms facing forward)
4. Now press your arms against the wall, open your chest so that your shoulder blades are pulled together. Make sure that your lower spine is still straight (to prevent a hyperlordosis)
5. Hold this position whilst taking 30 deep breaths, have a short break for 10 seconds and repeat 2 more times.
1. Start in the same position. Instead of having your arms straight, bend your elbows 90 degrees and let your elbows touch the wall.
2. Now press your elbows against the wall, open your chest so that your shoulder blades are pulled together. Make sure that lower spine is still straight (to prevent a hyperlordosis)
3. Hold this position whilst taking 30 deep breaths, have a short break for 10 seconds and repeat 2 more times.
All of these exercises should be synchronized with your breathing. That way you automatically get into a meditative state that also allows your brain to relax a bit.
About Gianna Thiess:
Gianna grew up in the Black Forest surrounded by nature. She is passionate about her work as a Sports Therapist, Personal Trainer and Chef in Berlin with the focus on a healthy lifestyle.
She sees the body in a holistic way. Gianna’s personal training is an alternative approach, focusing on body and mind where individual concepts are developed for and with each client. These concepts involve meditation, exercises (indoors or outdoors) and a healthy diet to achieve balance and wellbeing.