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story.lead_photo.caption Personal trainer Jan Meyer Swindler does step 1 of the Shoulder Blade Ball Press exercise at Little Rock Racquet Club. - Photo by Celia Storey

It's funny how one's perspective changes based on one's surroundings. There was a time when I spent 9 plus hours per day inside a fitness center, either helping others or participating in physical activity. These days, I spend those hours in my home office, either attending conference calls or working on the computer.

This week, I'll share some common challenges facing computer-based occupations, along with some ideas for overcoming them. Plus, I'll introduce a new exercise that's perfect for massaging those tight upper back muscles after a day of typing.

Sitting at a desk may be ideal for fielding emails and phone calls, but it takes a toll on the human body. The seated position is defined by a handful of biomechanical positions, all of which are basically detrimental to continued musculoskeletal freedom, strength and flexibility. First, the hamstrings are flexed. Second, the shoulders are slumped forward. Third, the spine is flexed forward at the thoracic and cervical sections. Finally, the pelvis is tilted backward, causing decreased lordosis in the lumbar spine.

The seated position described above represents the majority of the workday for a huge percentage of American workers. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, workers spend 39 percent of their day in the seated position across all job categories. This includes everything from accountants, who spend 81 percent of their day seated, to waiters and waitresses, who spend only 3 percent of their day seated. When you consider all occupations, 39 percent of a given day for all American workers is staggering.

The trouble is, sitting causes a number of physical problems. The hamstrings get short, and tight. The core muscles disengage, causing more wear and tear on the spine. Of course, we burn fewer calories while seated, leading to weight gain and physical inactivity. It's a vicious cycle that can and needs to be confronted with an organized, well-planned exercise program.

It's important to stand up and stretch every 15 minutes, whether you feel like it or not. Take a walk around the office or go outside for a second. Keep the blood flow moving, even if it's just a 30- or 60-second break. Obviously a daily workout is critical to maintaining a healthy weight, particularly for those with more sedentary jobs. Try to accumulate at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise on most, if not all days of the week.

I'm also a fan of rolling trouble spots. Whether it's a tight hamstring or inflexible thoracic spine, roller therapy is a great way to keep the body balanced. This week's exercise is a great way to roll out the midtrapezius, which is another area of the body that's affected by sitting. The Supine Trap Roll is an easy exercise that takes only a couple of minutes and a tennis ball.

  1. Grab a tennis ball or small Pilates (soft) ball. Lie on your back and place the ball between your shoulder blades.

  2. Position your knees up with your feet flat on the floor.

  3. Now, lift your hips off the floor and place your arms at your sides. The ball should now be pressing on the muscles between your shoulder blades.

  4. Slowly roll to the right, then to the left without allowing the ball to reach the shoulder blades. Keep the hips up the entire time.

  5. Perform this pattern for 45 seconds up to 3 times per day for tight upper back muscles.

The Supine Trap Roll feels great, and it's one of those exercises that feels more like therapy than physical activity. In truth, it doesn't burn many calories. But it's one of those movements that will help you feel well enough to either jump on the treadmill or jump back on the keyboard. Either way, it's a hit! Enjoy.

Matt Parrott has a doctorate in education (sport studies) and a master's in kinesiology and is certified by the American College of Sports Medicine.

Photo by Celia Storey
Personal trainer Jan Meyer Swindler does step 2 of the Shoulder Blade Ball Press exercise at Little Rock Racquet Club.

ActiveStyle on 11/26/2018

Print Headline: Supine Trap Roll helps soothe sedentary workers

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