“Sitting is the New Smoking”
Heard this before? Research has linked sitting for long periods of time with a number of health concerns, including obesity and metabolic syndrome — a cluster of conditions that includes increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist and abnormal cholesterol levels. Too much sitting also seems to increase the risk of death from cardiovascular disease and cancer.
More than half of the average person’s waking life involves sedentary activity, such as watching television, working at a computer or commuting, according to the study, so sitting should be a common health concern.
Being aware of the problem makes it much easier to find a solution. On the tube? Stand up. Sending an internal e-mail? You could get up and speak to them in person. Watching TV? Get up during the ad breaks and stretch your legs.
A major detriment to long periods of sitting is the effect on your posture, flexibility, mobility, and joint health. Back pain is a common complaint, and can be linked to excessive sitting.
Try these stretches every three times a week, preferably in the evening or before bed. Ensure you aren’t stretching cold muscles, a 3-5 minute warm-up is essential to improve blood flow and get the most out of the exercises. This can be walking or jogging on the spot.
Stretch 1 – The Cobra
Lie face down, with your arms either side of your chest like the bottom position of a press-up. Push yourself up, arching your back and keeping your knees on the floor. Hold for 30-45 seconds.
Stretch 2 – Hip Flexors
Assume the ‘proposal’ single leg kneeling position. Tense your glutes (bum muscles) first before leaning forward into the stretch. If you have your right leg forward you will feel the stretch in the front of your left thigh. Hold for 30-45 seconds, then switch. If you want to intensify the stretch, lift up the arm that’s opposite to the front leg.
Stretch 3 – Figure 4 stretch
As pictured, lift one leg up and cross it over so your ankle rests on the opposite knee. While keeping a flat back, force the knee of the crossed leg down to the floor (see arrow in picture) – use your hands if necessary. This is stretching your ‘piriformis’ and opening up your hips. Hold for 30-45 seconds, then switch. This can also be performed lying on your back.
Another issue is the glutes, which tend not to activate while seated and weak glutes are a very common problem. Rather than repeat what’s already out there, you can strengthen the glutes with exercises found here.