Exercise by just sitting down!
Have you ever thought about what your posture looks like when you sit at your desk or on the sofa? Probably not, but if you think it looks like the picture on the left, then this may be the best exercise for you! Sitting posture is often the result of how the seat is set up for you and habits. We tend to accept the seat as it is and try to adjust our body to make it “more comfortable.” What feels more comfortable at that time may actually be what leads to pain later on.
So how should you sit? If you look at the picture on the right, the seat is set for the person. Essentially the seat set up holds the person in a nice upright posture. Feet should be on the floor (or a foot stool if you have shorter legs) to help take weight off of the spine. The seat is raised so that the angle at the knee is approximately 90-100 degrees. The person is sitting all the way back with their thighs completely on the seat bottom to also take weight off of the spine. Lastly, the person is using the full seat back with support of the lower back curve.
What about the habit part of sitting? Remembering not to sit on the edge of the seat and sit back into the seat is one common habit. Sitting at the edge of the chair and trying to hold yourself up is great as an exercise but ultimately over a longer period to time will lead you into a slouched position. Another common habit is to sit for too long. Sitting prolonged puts pressure into your spine. Eventually your spine needs a break, which means you will tend to alter your sitting position instead of getting up. Putting a timer on to remind you to get up every 30-45 minutes will help remind you to sit properly when you return to the sitting position.
This sitting exercise may be more of a brain exercise to remember to sit in better posture than a muscle strengthening exercise but I guarantee it will be challenging if you tend to sit like the picture on the left! If you still want another challenge, try the exercise that Robin gave in her post on April 13, 2011.
– CORE ACTIVATION – While you are sitting in your work chair, or watching TV at home, sit up tall (chest up, shoulders back, core engaged). Try to hold this posture as long as possible when working or sitting at a desk. To give yourself a challenge, stand upright with your core engaged and arms out to the side. Lift one knee while maintaining good posture. Do not let your body sway or tilt. Repeat 10 times on each side.
Good luck with sitting! Take care of your body and be healthy!
Stephanie S. Saito, DPT, OCS, is a physical therapist at HealthCare Partners Physical Therapy in Torrance with a specialty in Orthopedics. A part-time instructor at Mount Saint Mary’s College in the Doctor of Physical Therapy program, she holds a Bachelor’s degree in psychology from UCLA and a Doctorate of Physical Therapy from USC.