The Gravity Effect.
Americans are spending more and more time sitting at their desks and engulfing their lives in computers and televisions. Even as I type this, I can say I have fallen victim to this conundrum. Think about it – if you sit all day while maintaining a minor forward lean, the line of gravity is going to apply pressure straight down almost causing a flexion force from your upper body onto your lower body. We can look around and find the people who have already fallen victim to the gravity effect just by analyzing their typical posture of forward head and rounded shoulders. Even the person who drives way too closely to their steering wheel while driving will show these effects on their body. Gravity is a force to be reckoned with. It is a constant 9.8 m/s’2 that does not change, does not show remorse, and is what keeps us on this earth.
Imagine sitting all day on a sloppy computer chair with inappropriate ergonomics. If you lean forward even the slightest bit all day every day, gravity will eventually win. This is very important as we age. If we maintain faulty alignment, more problems can occur. It’s as if gravity is a lumberjack chipping away at a tree and we are that tree. How many hacks can we possible take before we fall down?
One commonly known posture is the upper cross syndrome. This is exhibited by tight pectoralis and trapezius muscles and inhibited rhomboids and neck flexors. This is a common “all day at your desk” syndrome. Eventually, this syndrome is going to lead to a Quasimodo-type appearance. Posture is very important in fighting the overwhelming effects of gravity. We should be conscious of our posture every single day to ensure that we can maintain a normally aligned spine and to decrease our chances of eventually having an injury.
For the Average Desk Junkie
I know that working is an unavoidable necessity and sometimes the desk job is where some of us end up. However, it does not have to be all that bad. There are basic things that you can change RIGHT NOW to aid in maintaining a fully erect posture and combating the natural forces of gravity. First – ensure that your key board comes directly on you. Your key board should be placed in line with your arms at your side and elbows flexed at 90 degrees, no closer and no further. Either invest in an attachable keyboard tray or create a make shift way to adjust it. Second – ensure that your computer screen is about an arms length away from your face and the top of the screen should be at your eyebrow level. You should not be straining your neck up or down to view your computer screen. Third – an appropriate computer chair will do your spine wonders. Try to invest in a good chair with a lumbar support or you can purchase a lumbar roll. If a chair is not a requirement, especially for those that work from home, grab yourself an exercise ball- this will cause you to engage your core muscles and ensure that you maintain lumbar stability.
Don’t be afraid to get up. At least once an hour you should get up out of your chair and either do some light stretching or take a walk. Do something, anything!, to ensure that your glutes still maintain proper function. The best way to increase standing time into your daily activities would be to create a standing desk! Who says you have to sit to get your work done? If you have this possible option at work, make this suggestion to your supervisor. Who says you have to conform to sitting at your desk? With standing you not only get the blood flow to your lower extremities you also decrease hip flexion tightness and increase your caloric expenditure. Following those tips immediately will ensure that gravity will not take its toll on you.
For the Weightlifter
Now we come to a different battle with gravity. This section is for those of you who love the BENCH PRESS. Lets think about functionality here. The pectoralis muscles are adductors, horizontal adductors and internal rotators. All motions that feed the gravity beast in standing posture. If we overload ourselves on bench presses, we are going to develop rounded shoulders. I would call this a secondary gain. If you have faulty alignment and you bench press often the gravity effect will work on you in double the time. If your a bench presser and have a desk job, you’re in trouble. I would say a general rule of thumb would be a 2:1 ratio of anti-gravity muscles to gravity muscles. Every time you enter a gym to bench you should also be doing row exercises, pull ups, or lower trapezius exercises at least twice that week. The younger you are the easier it will be to change your routine. Mobility and posture are going to be vitally important as you get older, and trust me getting older is inevitable.
Exercises to Fight the Gravity Effect
These are exercises to try either at home or at work to fight some of the effects of gravity.
First of all, if you do not have a foam roller invest in one ASAP!
The following exercise will help increase your thoracic mobility. You can use it as a stretch exercise (3 sets X 1 minute holds at bottom each).
- Place the foam roller in your mid-thoracic spine. Starting position: elbows tight at your sides bent to 90 degrees, chin tucked towards your chest and palms on your forehead. Begin by slowly bending at your thoracic spine. Do not lift your hips off the floor and do not move the position of your arms. You should also keep your chin tucked towards your chest throughout the entire movement. It should feel as though someone is trying to bend your body in half where the foam roller is placed. Bend as far as you can while maintaining proper alignment in your spine and hip. You should try to touch the floor with the back of your head. Hold this position for one minute. If you cannot touch the floor, that is fine. Use this as a goal to work towards and in the meantime, place a pillow underneath your head. The ending position should be the same as the starting position. This is one complete set.
- Sometimes you need to use gravity to your advantage. Place your legs up a wall with your arms abducted to 90 degrees. You eventually want to be able to maintain permanent contact during this stretch with your elbows, wrist and scapula on the floor.
- Sit up against a wall with your back flat against it. Try to maintain contact with the wall with your lumbar, thoracic and cervical spine as well as your shoulders and elbows. Do not shrug your shoulders up against your neck. In the beginning, you may need to start out further away from the wall. However, the exercise will become easier over time. Try to perform 3 sets holding for 30 seconds each.
- Hope you enjoy reading my first post, there is a lot more to come!