Humans weren’t meant to sit for 8 hours a day, then commute for another hour in the car. Over time, office workers develop tight backs, arthritic necks (from staring at monitors all day), and hips that pull and tug at the lower back causing pain and muscle weakness. I’ve seen it time and time again and as a personal trainer it pains me to think that no one is really addressing this issue with a substantial amount of attention. As a way to keep the hips loose and flexible, it’s important that you stretch before work, during and even after. Here are my top 5 stretches to reverse the effects of sitting.
This is what happens to the spine with prolonged sitting.
Notice the increase arch in the spine, which pushes the stomach and hips forward.
Use these 5 stretches to reverse the effects of sitting
Kneeling hip flexor stretch
While in a forward left lunge, kneel onto your right knee. Keep your hips tucked underneath and glutes squeezed. With your right hand overhead, move your hips slightly forward. For a more intense stretch lean to the left and add a slight twist of the hips.
Number 4 Stretch
This stretch opens up your hips while stretching one of the main muscles that causes lower back pain, the piriformis! This is the angry muscle that pulls on your lower back when seated for long periods of time. Over the months, this muscle becomes increasingly tight. This can also cause the body to send signals to the muscle to turn off (a common affect when muscles become overly tight). In this case, a tight butt is not a good thing! When it turns off it also loses definition and height, two things you don’t want to lose ever!
To get to this muscle you muscle open the hips. While seated, cross your leg making a number “4.” Next lean forward. To deepen the stretch you can lean towards the legs that is crossed.
This isn’t one you can easily do at work, but it’s still very important.
Get down on all fours. Your knees should be aligned with the hip joints and your feet should be pointed in towards each other (as much as possible).
Next push your knees out as far as you can comfortably. Exhale and push your hips back. Hold this position for 20- 30 seconds (or longer). Come back to starting position by moving the hips forward first, then bringing your knees back in.
While sitting the quads are lengthen for long periods of time. Lengthen muscles become tight, weak, and irritated. This can cause hip problems and knee issues. Over time, it can cause lesions in the muscle (known as knots to most). These knots pull and tug at the front of the hips and knee joints. This is seen a lot in the elderly. To avoid these issues do this stretch 1-3 times a day for 20 – 30 seconds.
While using a chair or wall, grab your ankle and pull it towards your butt. If you can’t do this, try placing your toe on a chair behind you. Keep the hips and knee aligned. Do not lean forward, stand up tall. Hold this for 20-30 seconds and preform it 1-3 times a day.
This is a simple stretch that you can do often to keep the blood flowing and reduce tension on the spine. Simply stand up and bend over, reach for the floor while keeping your legs straight. If you can’t keep your legs straight, try doing this stretch with a slight bend in the knees. Hold for 20 – 30 seconds, 1-3 times a day.
These stretches will take you less then 3 minutes, but will bring a new kind of stress relief to your body. Use these stretches to reverse the effects of sitting, stay clam, flexible, and healthy!