Innovation is a handy trait to have when it comes to exercise. You’re not always going to make it to the gym or yoga studio if you have a busy schedule, especially if eight of those hours a day are spent hunching over a desk at work. And if that unnatural posture has you worried over losing the strength in your back, that’s when you step outside of the box and use your workstation to exercise.
Don’t Get Up
One of the handiest pieces of exercise equipment at work is the chair you sit in. Do spinal twists that will target your lower, middle and upper back. Always swivel from your waist and keep your back straight for the best effect while you use the back of the chair to deepen the twist. Follow up the twists with some straight-backed forward bending, side stretches done with your arms raised to the ceiling and single- or double-leg lifts.
On the Ball
If your boss gives the go-ahead, bring a stability ball to work and stash it under your desk when it’s not in use. A study done at the University of Waterloo came to the conclusion that sitting on the stability ball for short periods of time will activate the muscles of your thoracic or middle back, while prolonged use could actually be detrimental to your lower back. So, while it’s true that all of that wobbling on your round perch will force you to use the muscles in your back to keep erect, it’s better to err on the side of caution and use the ball only a couple of times a day to strengthen your back.
The Core of the Matter
A strong core means a strong back. Standing up and away from your chair to practice exercises for your core may cause a few heads to turn, but at least you’ll be able to leave at the end of the day with a straighter, stronger back. Grip the edge of your desk for a series of pushups or practice controlled knee lifts. Standing on one leg at a time while lifting your knee toward your chest will activate your core and back muscles at the same time. Work up to one minute on each side over time.
While you won’t have your yoga teacher looking on to give you suggestions or a tweak in your alignment, you can perform modified yoga poses to strengthen your back at work. Stand up and lift one foot at a time onto your chair for a Standing Chair Twist. Or hold onto the back of your chair for a Standing Crescent. Both poses are similar to the exercises you performed while seated, but the standing versions have the potential for a greater range of movement and thus have a greater effect on the muscles of your middle and lower back. Practice forward bends like Big Toe pose, Standing Forward Bend and Standing Half Forward Bend for your upper back.
Linda Kaban is a certified yoga teacher and professional life coach who specializes in helping people achieve their fitness goals. With a bachelor's degree in the humanities, Kaban has been writing since 1998 and has been published in YOGALife magazine along with other healthy living publications.