05/13/2015 04:43 EDT | Updated 05/13/2015 04:59 EDT

5 Exercises For People Who Sit All Day

Even if you're the biggest gym rat in the world, sitting at your desk all day will still take its toll on your muscles.

"Think about it — even if you train hard, that only takes up approximately one hour of your day," says physiotherapist Cassie Dionne, at Kingston, Ont. gym Taylored Training. "If most of the remainder of your day is spent sitting, then you are maintaining what is likely a terrible sitting posture for the majority of your time."

Sedentary time — that is, everything from sitting at work to driving home to watching TV on the couch — has been linked with a number of diseases, like diabetes and cancer. But even smaller, day-to-day effects make a difference, like hunched shoulders, headaches from straining your neck, and lower back pain.

"Almost everyone that comes to see me has at least one muscle group that isn’t functioning properly. Reasons for this can vary, but a huge contributing factor is absolutely sitting and lifestyle factors," Dionne says. "When you are sitting all day you are constantly in a flexed position. Your shoulders round and upper back gets stiff, and your glutes have no reason to work. You get used to these postures and your brain starts to recognize them as being normal."

So because standing all day isn't viable for many people, Dionne has put together a list of five exercises — some of which you can easily do right at the office — to counteract the effects of sitting on your muscles. Take a look at the five exercises below:

  • At the Gym: Loaded Carries
    "Alignment refers to when your body is in the proper position that allows your joints, muscles and ligaments to work efficiently without any unnecessary stress," says Kingston, Ont.-based physiotherapist Cassie Dionne of Taylored Training. "In order to have good alignment one needs to have strong stabilizer muscles and good motor control. If these muscles are not working properly and the issue isn’t addressed, it will undoubtedly lead to pain and injury in the future."
    Dionne suggests loaded carriesto train alignment and stability of shoulders hips, core and entire body. "These exercises essentially force you to find your alignment simply by picking up something heavy," she explains.
    There are three different types of carries you can do, all of which can be done with free weights or kettlebells and can be done bilaterally or unilaterally: The three different carries (Waiter’s Carry, Racked Carry, and the Suitcase/Farmer’s Carry), which can be done with weights or kettlebells, are shown in the video here.
  • At the Office: Wall Slides/Laying Shoulder Mobility
    "If you think about the posture you adopt most of the time while sitting, your head and shoulders are forward flexed," Dionne says. The wall slide or laying shoulder mobility exercise targets the thoracic spine and shoulders to keep everything moving well.
    To do it:
    1. Stand against the wall, arms positioned like football goal posts. Your head, hands, wrists and forearms should all be flat against the wall (including the back of the hands). Depending on how difficult it is for you to get into this position, you may have to bring your feet farther away from the wall — that is OK.
    2. Slide your hands above your head until they are straight overhead, making sure your low back does not lose contact with the wall. Your goal is to maintain contact with the wall for all body parts previously mentioned.
    3. Do not go to a point of pain and don’t force the movement. Repeat ten times.
    "At first, this can be too challenging, so I often start people with the laying shoulder mobility," she says. "To do this follow the exact sequence as above, just laying on the floor with your knees bent instead of leaning against a wall."
  • At the Office: Slider Reverse Lunges
    "Slider reverse lunges are simple and easy to perform and really help get your glutes working hard," Dionne adds. "To do them, simply grab a slider — you can use a Valslide or a furniture mover — and either work on a carpeted floor or place a towel on the ground so you can easily slide on the surface. Then all you need to do is put the slider under one foot and use that foot to slide back into a reverse lunge. Return to standing and repeat! A great way to engage your glutes after a long day of sitting."
  • At Home: Glute Bridge with March
    This exercise that works the whole body, but especially the glutes. To perform it:
    1. Lay on your back with your knees bent and lift your hips in the air.
    2. Maintaining this tip position, slowly lift one leg off the ground and hold for two seconds. Make sure you don’t allow any movement in your hips.
    3. Put your foot back on the ground and repeat with the opposite leg.
    4. Do this about 20 times, ensuring your hips stay stable for the entire exercise.
  • At Home: 4-Point Kneeling Thoracic Rotation
    "This exercise is all about improving mobility in your upper back and shoulders. With this you will both mobilize the thoracic spine and stretch the front of your shoulders out," Dionne says.
    To perform it: 1. Start on the ground on your hands and knees, with your right hand on behind your head.
    2. Rotate downwards so that you bring your right elbow to your left elbow.
    3. Then, rotate upwards to look towards the ceiling as far as you can. Make sure your hips remain square the whole time and the movement is coming predominately from your upper back.
    4. Complete 10 to 12 reps per side.

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