Anyone that's ever had back pain will know just how debilitating it can be. And with 10 million work days thought to be lost annually due to back aches, twinges and sharp pains (along with £1billion of lost revenue, according to UK Statistics Authority 2015) - it seems so many of us are affected.
One of the most common causes of back pain that I see time and time again, as a personal trainer who's qualified in C.H.E.K Scientific Back Training, is bad posture - brought on by, you guessed it - sitting at our desks all day.
Modern lifestyles force us to stay seated, causing twice as much pressure on discs on the spine. We're seduced by images of trendy offices and 'sexy desks' which may look aspirational, but the reality is far grimmer.
Staring down at a laptop while sitting in a badly supported chair will have a detrimental and long-term effect on the health of your back, causing pain, spasm and worse.
Over the last few years, I've worked with many mums who need help to banish their back pain, which comes from a combination of carrying children, balancing heavy shoulder bags and sitting on unsupportive office chairs, on returning to work after maternity leave. This menacing mix - which can start to formulate during pregnancy (as back muscles start to move and baby grows), can play havoc with moods and long-term skeletal structures. That's why it's so important to get stretching and moving NOW.
One mum who noticed those tell-tale twinges after the birth of her son, is Laura Caudery. Company director Laura came to see me after experiencing postural discomfort when balancing motherhood with a return to work.
After becoming more aware of the detrimental effect of long hours hunched over a laptop, and seeing how little support there is in the workplace for preventing future health issues relating to bad posture; she's even decided to implement a desk analysis scheme in her award-winning business centre, Fetcham Park - where I visit desks, assess client posture and teach them my tried and tested deskercise moves to keep their backs happy and healthy.
But - of course, not all companies and organisations have posture awareness schemes in place. So, if you want to improve your posture AND tone your tush (with less effort than a squat), without even leaving your desk, here's my three favourite moves for you to use:
Deskercise 1: External shoulder rotations using resistance band to prevent RSI
This exercise reminds you to sit in a nice, upright position with a neutral spine. Moving the hands outwards makes the shoulders rotate externally - the complete opposite to rotating the shoulders inwards while typing.
- Start with your elbows bent at 90-degrees while holding the band
- Push your elbows against your body and don't allow them to move. Now lift the crown of your head towards the ceiling to be as tall as you possibly can, lift your chest up, pull your shoulders back and gently draw your belly button in.
- While holding on to the band, slowly move your hands outwards, away from each other keeping that 90-degree bend in the elbows. Repeat 15-20 times for 3 rounds during your day.
Deskercise 2: Lat pulldown with a resistance band to counter rounded backs
This exercises puts more focus on extending the upper back to counter the rounded back position most office workers take on while working on their computer.
- Start with your arms straight and lift them in front of you until the band is just above the level of the top of your head.
- Lift the crown of your head towards the ceiling to be as tall as you possibly can, lift your chest up, pull your shoulders back and gently draw your belly button in.
- From this position, you pull the band apart by moving your arms outwards until the band reaches the top of your chest. Always remember to keep your shoulders down and back. We really want to focus on opening the chest.
- Aim to perform 3 rounds of 15-20 repetitions. For speed and ease you can spread these rounds over the course of your whole day.
Deskercise 3: Seated clams with a resistance band to keep your butt perky.
Sitting at your desk all day puts your gluteal muscles to sleep. Rather than having a perky round bottom you end up with flat and dormant glutes.
This exercise wakes up your backside and allows you to keep your bum fully functional while working at your desk. To make this exercise harder you can lift your bottom 2-3cm off the chair and then do the exercise.
- Place a rubber band around your legs, just above the knees. Lift the crown of your head towards the ceiling to be as tall as you possibly can, lift your chest up, pull your shoulders back and gently draw your belly button in.
- Place your feet just wider than hip width apart. You can now perform this exercise either static or dynamic.
- The static version requires you to push your knees out so that the middle of the knees sits right over the middle of your feet.
- Hold this position for 30-60 seconds and repeat 3-5 times.
- For the dynamic version, you start with the knees touching and then you push out to place the knees right above the feet.
- Hold this position for 2 seconds before you slowly bring your knees back together.
- Aim to get 3 rounds of 15-20 repetitions in.