There is no doubt that sitting is a necessary part of life in today’s workplace. The prevalence of sitting has steadily increased over the last century and it doesn’t appear to be a trend that is going to change anytime soon. It’s amazing the amount of time that the average North American spends in the car, in front of the T.V. and the computer in the seated position. Factor this against the amount of time spent exercising or doing something active and you will see very clearly why the prevalence of back and joint issues, as well as a general state of poor health and obesity, is exploding.
Let’s get something straight: our bodies are meant to move!
There are multiple risks and problems associated with being bound to a seated and stationary position for long periods of time. Moving our body is necessary for basic functions of circulation and oxygen distribution as well as primary joint/muscle health and hormone balance. Another clarification that must be made is that inactivity doesn’t just mean not working out; it also means periods of being still. This state of being ‘inactive’ as well as the position that we are seated in, create all sorts of issues including muscle tightness and imbalance, increased risk of clotting, circulation problems and a greater risk of poor lifestyle habits that can lead to heart disease.
What You Can Do In The Gym
In the gym, we can address the specific muscles that are affected by the inactivity we cannot avoid. Although common opinion sometimes lends to the support of stretching tight areas the problem will not be alleviated without strengthening weak areas as well. For example, stretching your chest does not address the weaknesses in your upper/thoracic spine specifically the lower trapezius. On that note, to deal with tight hip flexors we also need to strengthen the back/posterior part of the hip specifically the gluteus and lower back.
Here are examples of three exercises that will benefit muscles and joints:
Front of the Hip
1. Lunge – works to stretch the hip flexor, which is in a flexed position when we sit. This is great for the front of the hip where tightness occurs/develops. Lunges can be done stationery or as a split squat for an active stretch.
Hamstring & Muscles of the Spine
2. Deadlift – stretch the hamstring but also strengthen the muscles of the spine that tend to be underactive from prolonged sitting. This exercise can be performed with weight or as a stretch without weight. The key to this activity is keeping the natural arch in your spine.
Upper Back & Front of Shoulder
3. Face Pull – strengthen the upper back and deal with the tightness that can be caused in the front of the shoulders and chest. This should feel as though the chest is lifting as you pull, which will make sure you are not slouching in the upper back.
What You Can Do In The Office
Another thing we can add to our day that our body will thank us for is breaking up our seated time. It is very important to do some sort of activity at small intervals throughout our day.
Every so often, take a quick break to perform a simple exercise designed to relieve stress, get some blood flowing and break out of the repetitive strain cycle we are all so familiar with. Vary exercises from in-chair stretching or a quick physical exercise to posture, ergonomic and nutrition reminders.
A certified personal trainer can help design a program for your specific needs and build a balanced strength training program that will help you maintain health and muscular balance while keeping you accountable for your own health.