Even one minute of movement is beneficial to our health and wellbeing.
Laura Penhaul, Lead Physiotherapist for British Sailing, explains how we can integrate strength and mobility exercises into our everyday lives.
Our lives have changed in many ways due to Covid-19 and, for many of us, this could mean spending much more time at home. Your usual daily commute might have involved walking to the bus or train/tube station, running or cycling to the office, walking up the stairs or escalators, or walking to a cafe to get some lunch.
Now that your home may also be your office it could mean that you are moving your body less and sitting down a lot more. It may also mean that those who don’t have a ‘proper’ office at home may be working from a bed or sofa with a computer on their lap, or on stools or chairs that are not conducive to sitting on for a whole working day.
Some people may be experiencing neck and lower back pain due to sitting more and in poor postures. Whatever a person’s level of activity, or physical fitness, now more than ever, it is important that we try to integrate movement and mobility exercises into our lives, even for a few minutes each day, to help prevent or minimise pain or discomfort and nurture overall health.
A few simple steps you can take are to:
Here are a few really simple exercises you can do whilst sitting.
Try a simple pelvic movement to move your lower back. Keeping your chest tall, rock your pelvis forwards and back so you roll on your sit bones.
Placing your right ankle on your left knee, keeping your chest tall, rock your pelvis forwards, over your hip to feel the stretch in your right glute/buttock. Repeat on the other side.
Keeping the chest tall, twist to the right and left, focusing the movement from your chest bone/ sternum.
Chest side flexion
Chest side flexion with arm reaches up and over. Try and grow long through the right side by driving the right hip down as you reach your right fingertips up and over, repeat on the other side.
Now for some mobility movements that you can do to ‘move’ your body out of a chair position and regain some height and extensibility through your hips, chest and shoulders. Don’t worry if you don’t have a mat, a towel or carpet will do just as well.
Quad stretch in split kneeling, progress to adding arm up and over and/or combine with rotation in a yoga lunge with rotation position.
Glute stretch with knee support on your front. Keep your hips level and your knee should be about a 90 degree angle so that your shin is parallel to the top of the mat. Progress with straightening the back leg and bringing it in to midline. You could also go onto your elbows.
Use a ‘peanut’ (made out of two tennis balls taped together) to mobilise the middle of your back. Lying on your back with knees bent, taking your arms out to the side and up over your head, keeping your arms on the floor and your breathing relaxed throughout.
Hands and knees reach through to encourage rotation in your upper back, rotate from your chest bone/sternum.
Side lying with arm opening will help to open out your chest. Rotate from your chest bone/sternum, remember it’s not about how far you reach your arm, just feel the rotation in the back.
Leg swings lying on your back, trying your best to keep the backs of your shoulders on the floor.
Hands and knees sit backs, take your chest bone/sternum to floor.
Yoga is great for stretching and mobility, and many different classes can be found online, for free or for purchase. However I would highly recommend following a physiotherapist who has specialised in yoga, because they will couple the movements in a safe pattern, so it doesn’t over stress parts of your neck or lower back.
For example, some ashtanga yoga flows can require excessive backward bends and if you have an underlying issue in your back then this can be exacerbated.
I hope this has given you a flavour of some of the simple exercises you might think about doing at home to help you maintain or develop strength and flexibility, and integrate a bit of movement and mobility into your daily or weekly routine.
Please don’t think that you have to block out a long period of time to do these exercises either, a minute or two each day is really beneficial to your health and wellbeing.
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