I am sure you are aware that sitting for long periods of time is probably the not the best thing for your health and wellness.
But what exactly is it that makes it so terrible, and how big of a deal is it really?
Let’s start with your musculo-skeletal structure. When you are sedentary and seated for long periods of time there is a predictable set of issues that will arise. Starting with your hips and knees being in a bent or flexed position that tightens and shortens your hip flexors and your hamstrings. Tight and short muscles turn off their opposing muscles, a term called reciprocal inhibition. In this case, your quads and your glutes are disengaged.
Not just while seated, but once you do stand, those hip flexors and hamstrings remain tight and continue to turn off your main driving muscle group, your glutes. They will begin to atrophy, and force other muscles to come into play to allow you to move forward. Injury will not be far behind. Without your glutes functioning properly, your pelvis and spine are unstable.
This, in combination with typical poor sitting habits, forces your lower back into a tightened shortened state, forces your upper back into a forward rounded position, your shoulders into a internally rounded and forward position, and forces your head into a forward position. Your chest gets tight, your upper back gets weak, and your abdominals are turned off and begin to atrophy and turn soft.
All this puts you incredibly out of balance. Doesn’t sound too good, does it? This well intentioned individual then goes for a run on a lunch break , or plays a pick up game after work, and it’s no wonder injuries and chronic pain becomes just a mater of time.
The hazards do not end there. Beyond the direct link of lack of adequate exercise to obvious health problems, poor posture can reduce your lung capacity by up to 40%. This lack of ability to properly oxygenate is also linked to myriad diseases including neurodegenerative disease, cancer, as well as the above listed ailments. All this has health professionals stating that sitting for prolonged periods and being generally sedentary is the single greatest health risk to all of us.
For a species that has been evolving over the last 2.5 million years whilst walking, running, sprinting, lifting, and squatting, sitting for long periods is unnatural and uncomfortable. A deep squat is actually our position of rest. Just look at indigenous populations, and see how easily they rest into a deep squat position while performing tasks .
This requires natural human posture and flexibility that comes with moving as we are designed to move, which is to say frequently and with variation. It requires lots of ankle mobility and hip mobility, which is entirely lost after frequent bouts of marathon sitting. It requires a strong pillar, or the musculature that encompasses your entire trunk, and proper positioning of your shoulders and head.
All this comes with frequent movement. Movement feels good to us. It feeds a deep instinct in all of us. There is a reason it feels so good to go for a walk in a forest, or to get your heart rate elevated on a run . Good things happen to our bodies when we move. Muscles are activated properly which allows for you to carry optimum posture, improving blood flow and performance.
Hormones like leptin are brought into balance, which regulates fat metabolism and appetite in the body. There is even evidence that moving frequently releases neurotransmitters such as GABA (Gamma amino-butyric acid) that reduce stress sensitivity and emotionality.
In addition to incorporating a specific strength and fitness program into your lifestyle that works toward correcting your personal and specific movement issues, there are some easy things you can do in your day to help correct your movement. First of all ,take frequent breaks from sitting.
Even brief breaks where you stand tall and stretch or go for a quick walk will give you measureable benefits. Incorporate some specific stretches into your day. Understanding it may be awkward to stretch in your workplace, get it done in the morning and evenings. It doesn’t take long and your mobility will be helped tremendously.
1. Kneeling Hip Flexor stretch
• Putting one knee down, and a foot forward, begin by reinforcing optimum posture. Pull your head back and up, chin down, chest up, shoulder blades rolled back and down on your rib cage and pull your rib cage down and together.
With abs in tight, shift your pelvis forward until you feel a stretch on the front of your back leg. Increase the benefit by raising the same arm as the leg that is back until your elbow is by your ear without letting your shoulder roll forward.
Harder than it seems. If doing well and with purpose, you should feel your abdominal working hard as you shift forward and back.
2. Door frame chest stretch
• With shoulder blades rolled back and down on your rib cage, anchor your lower arm against a door frame or a post and turn your torso and hips away. You should feel a big stretch through your chest.
3. Rocking Lunge Active Stretch with Rotation
So get out of that chair, stop the marathon sitting sessions, and get moving. Your body will be forever grateful, and will repay you with tremendous dividends. You will be able to be active, fit, healthy and balanced deep into this beautiful life and experience all the joys it has to offer.