With the drastic rise in Covid-19 cases in Malaysia, we should all play our part by staying at home and going out only when necessary.
It seems to be the only thing we can contribute for now to flatten the curve, aside from getting vaccinated.
Unfortunately, the downside of spending too much time at home is that we tend to sit for longer hours and get more sedentary.
Prolonged sitting with inactivity will eventually cause muscle imbalance and create postural issues.
The most common postural conditions are the upper crossed syndrome (UCS) and lower crossed syndrome (LCS).
A person has UCS when they have a forward head posture, increased cervical curve and thoracic hump, elevated and rounded shoulders, as well as winged shoulder blades.
For LCS, the person might have an overly arched lumbar with the pelvic tilted anteriorly and a mid-back hunch.
These syndromes not only result in bad posture, but also contribute to joint degeneration over time.
They may also cause neck pain, low back pain, headache, myofascial pain, or even breathing problems if the condition is more severe.
Nevertheless, fret not, here are six simple exercises you can perform at home just three to four times a week to maintain your muscular balance and strength.
The idea here is to stretch tight muscles and strengthen those that tend to weaken from prolonged sitting.
In UCS, muscles that are commonly tight are those at the back of the neck and upper back, and the chest muscles.
The muscles that tend to weaken are the deep neck flexors and the mid-back muscles.
For those with LCS, tightness often develops in the lower back, anterior hip and thigh muscles.
Those that tend to weaken are the abdominal and gluteal muscles.
For all the strengthening exercises described below, start with 10 repetitions or less for each set.
Do two to three sets, according to what you can manage.
As for the stretching exercises, stretch up to your limit, but not until it is uncomfortable or painful.
Hold that position for about 30 seconds each and repeat three times.
You can gradually progress to holding some light weights in your hands for some of these exercises once they become too easy for you.
This is an easy exercise to correct the forward head posture in UCS.
Hold your head up straight (as if someone were pulling it up with a string) and tuck your chin in as if to create a double chin.
You can use your fingers to help push your chin in if you find it too difficult.
If it’s too easy instead, do this exercise lying down on a bed or sofa with your head and neck beyond the edge of the furniture (i.e. in the air) for a recumbent chin-tuck.
Make sure your chin is parallel to the ground and not tilted up or down.
This is a good stretch to do after the chin-tuck.
Turn your head to the right and look downwards towards your armpit.
With your right hand, hold onto the top of your head and slowly pull it downwards.
Do the same on the other side.
This is another stretching exercise to open up your shoulders and stretch your mid-back.
Get on your knees and stretch forward to place your elbows on an elevated surface like a stool or a box.
Then sink your mid-back down as much as you can until you feel the stretch on your shoulders and mid-back.
Moving on to the lower body, you can do this exercise to both strengthen your lower limbs and improve your balance.
Stand on your right foot with the knee slightly bent and stretch your left leg back and up until your left leg and body are parallel to the floor (or as far up as your left leg can go while remaining straight).
Make sure your back remains straight.
Your arms should be hanging down, but can be brought up to your sides for help to maintain balance if necessary.
Do the same on the other side.
This exercise can be performed next to strengthen your lower back extensor muscles.
Lie face down on the floor with your arms at your side.
Then lift both your arms and legs as far off the floor as you can while keeping your head in a neutral position and breathing normally.
Lastly, you can perform the “pigeon pose” to stretch the hip flexor and piriformis muscles.
Cross one leg in front of you with the other straight behind you, and lower yourself to the floor as much as you can until you feel the stretch.
If it is very easy for you, bend your back leg up and hold onto it with your opposite hand to feel more tension.
Quinn Pee Kui Ying is taking a Masters degree in strength and conditioning at Universiti Malaya. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org. The information provided is for educational purposes only and should not be considered as medical advice. The Star does not give any warranty on accuracy, completeness, functionality, usefulness or other assurances as to the content appearing in this article. The Star disclaims all responsibility for any losses, damage to property or personal injury suffered directly or indirectly from reliance on such information