When quarantine first began, working from the couch felt like a much-needed break from the discomforts of office life. Nothing was more appealing than rolling out of bed, grabbing your laptop, and rolling straight back onto the couch. No shower, no shoes, no problem. However, the excitement of working from the couch can start to wane once the aches and pains of too much sitting start to set in. From your neck to your lower back to your hips, sitting on a soft surface with limited back support for a full work day is considerably less comfortable than it seems. And as it turns out, working from the couch for too long is bad for you, both physically and mentally. The good news? You don’t have to give up working from the couch completely just to get a bit more healthy.
Sitting all day can have a number of negative effects on the body, but sitting slumped on a couch can be even more detrimental. “Sitting allows your muscles to become extremely tight and dysfunctional, which will compromise your posture and increase your risk of pain and injury,” says Jeff Brannigan, Program Director at Stretch*d (a New York-based dynamic assisted stretching studio). Furthermore, Brannigan goes on to explain that “working from the couch makes it very easy to sit in a not-so-great position. Many people quickly begin to slouch or slide down the couch.”
The problem? “Sitting in a compromised position drastically speeds up the onset of muscle dysfunction. You’re far more likely to feel muscle tightness, tension, and pain due to an increased likelihood of developing imbalance throughout the body.” In fact, in a 2018 study, the CDC went so far as to say that “high amounts of sedentary behavior and low levels of physical activity are associated with increased risk of premature mortality and some chronic diseases”. Yikes.
The good news is that even if you work in an industry that requires you to be sedentary for most of the day, small changes to your routine can make a big impact. Better yet, new work-from-home policies make it even easier to get up and move. Eve Lynn Chrust, a New York City-based fitness and yoga instructor (you can find her classes at Obé, SoulCycle, and Athleta) says that exercise doesn’t have to be something you force yourself to do at the end of a long work day. “Make it cumulative,” says Chrust. “If you do a little something every hour of the work day, by the end of the day you’ll have gotten more done than you might’ve expected.” Chrust says that a few exercises coupled with a few laps around your apartment every hour are enough to counteract some of the negative effects of working slumped down on the couch all day. Her advice? Set a timer on your phone to dedicate four (yes, just four) minutes of every hour to getting off the couch and moving. By the end of a standard work day, you’ll have already gotten a half hour workout in.
Here are some moves you should be doing to counteract the effects of sitting all day:
1. Walk It Out
The first one-minute move in your four-minute set? A lap around your house, a walk up and down a set of stairs or a stroll down the block! Chrust says, “there’s a mental component of getting off the couch. When you sit for too long, things can feel stagnant and repetitive and you tend to get stuck. Getting off the couch even for just a minute helps you to feel motivated, it gives you energy and might improve your focus.”
Chrust recommends doing 10 squats every hour to open your hips, stretch out your legs, and work your booty. “Doing just ten squats every hour throughout the workday is totally accessible, and by the end of an eight-hour work day you’ll have done 80 squats!” she says.
Next up is a one-minute plank. Planks are a favorite of most yogis, and with good reason. They’re an efficient way to work your entire core, front and back, says Chrust. “Abs are fundamental for posture. If you’re hunching on a couch all day, you need core strength to lengthen out your spine.”
4. Cat Cow
After you’ve completed the one-minute plank, move directly into a tabletop position, with your knees on the ground directly in line with your hips, and your hands on the ground directly in line with your shoulders. Flow through one minute of cat cow to create space in your spine, chest and neck, three spaces that are compromised when sitting on a couch for too long, says Chrust.
Images: GIPHY; Maryjoy Caballero / Unsplash