Back to Basics

Remember elementary school, where you’d have a jaunt outdoors for recess, a group activity on the floor, hopscotch at lunchtime, and a game of kickball during PE class? Every couple of hours was broken up by some kind of activity. Fast-forward to life in “the real world,” and you’re probably sitting at a desk all day, sedentary, save for the trips to the water cooler and restroom.


There’s a reason we ran around and didn’t have our butts glued to our chairs all day (aside from our younger, shorter attention spans): We’re not meant to sit and hunch over a glowing screen for eight-plus hours each day. According to Prevention Magazine, being a “desk jockey” is the No. 1 cause of back pain.

So, whether you sit in your cubicle too much or carry stress around like you’re wearing a backpack full o’ everyone’s problems, there are some things you can do to get your back back to basics.

De-desk yourself

Slumping over your keyboard and starting to remind yourself of Mr. Burns? Besides the obvious solution of trying to sit up straighter more often, slowly walking through a doorway while holding onto the sides of the door frame can help reverse the hunching and stretch out your upper back – do it a few times a day or whenever you feel like you need a good slouch-reversal.

Other easy things you can do at your office job include going for a walk at lunch to break up the continuous sitting, standing up frequently, and doing some discrete stretching.

Breaking up chair time by sitting on an exercise ball part-time is another option.

Roll out

A foam roller is, like, 10 bucks at TJ Maxx, or you can get one at any sporting goods store. It’s easy to store in your room and a great, free alternative to a massage. If you don’t know what you’re doing, have no fear. Simply log onto YouTube, search “foam rolling back” and there are literally endless instructional videos to guide you.

Backbends galore

What do cows, cats, and cobras have in common? They’re all different kinds of yoga poses you can do to stretch your back. Yoga is one of the best exercises for lengthening and loosening those stiff working-girl (or guy) bodies. And, when done correctly, it feels pretty darn good. Studies from Harvard and the UK have concluded yoga to be more effective than routine care in improving back function – i.e., reducing back-related problems from everyday activities.

If you’re no newbie to yoga, try upping your frequency and taking at least one or two evening classes a week, when your back could probably use it the most. Don’t have a regular yoga studio? Yoga to the People offers drop-in, donation-based or affordable classes in multiple major cities, and you can even take free classes at lululemon stores (or via the videos on their site). And if you’d rather practice in the privacy of your own home, you can always check out yoga DVDs from the library, follow along with a YouTube instructor, or simply Google some poses, such as those found in Women’s Health Magazine online.

And if you just need some quick damage control after a day of sitting, there’s always the old recess favorite: back bends in the grass.

Your back is your entire body’s main supporting structure, so be kind to it and treat it well. While we may not be able to help the fact that our jobs tie us to a desk all day, or keep our personal stresses from weighing us down physically, we can be proactive in trying to reduce and reverse some of the damage in our own time.



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1 Comment

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