Our bodies were not designed to sit all day, yet that’s exactly what many Canadians do. ‘Sitting with your hands on keyboards for hours can contribute to your shoulders rolling forward, causing your back to round and your neck to jut forward,’ says Nicole Stephen, a Vancouver-based registered massage therapist. This can lead to problems, including blood and nerve restriction in the arms; headaches; and back pain.
‘When chest muscles are weak, they end up short and tight, causing our shoulders to hunch forward,’ says Stephen. An effective stretch for maintaining good posture and muscle balance is a seated chest stretch.
Sitting at your desk, rotate your body so you are facing right. (This stretch can also be modified to a standing stretch using the wall as a stabilizer.) Raise your right arm, bending the elbow at 90 degrees, aligning elbow with shoulder, keeping the joints in a straight line and palm open. Sitting tall through your spine, rest your elbow lightly against the chair’s back and slowly rotate left. Hold this position for five slow, deep breaths; repeat on the other side. ‘Diaphragmatic breathing is important,’ says Stephen. ‘The anatomical attachment of the pectorals to the ribs means they will get stretched even further through deep, slow breathing.’
Do this stretch every few hours, says Stephen. ‘Stretching encourages not only mobility, but also strength, and helps increase blood flow and movement to those areas of your body that accumulate tension from hours of inactivity.’