Hey, are you sitting down? Considering the average person spends about 10 hours each day seated chances are pretty good that you are — either on the toilet or at a desk or on public transportation. And that’s not great for the business of being a functional human being. But there are simple ways to prevent — and even undo — the damage.
So, what, exactly, happens when you sit? A lot, actually. “Long periods of sitting affect the entire body,” explains Youfit Health Clubs’ National Director of Fitness, Raphael Konforti, MS, CPT. “From your individual muscles to your brain, when you sit down you’re folding your body up like an old beach chair.”
Konforti continues: “When we’re sitting, some muscles are in a shortened position – which makes them tight – and some are in a lengthened position – which makes them weaker and less active.” Affected muscles include your hamstrings, hip flexors, lower back, chest, lats, glutes, upper back, and core.
And the damage isn’t to muscles alone.“Sitting all day has been closely correlated to health risk factors such as high cholesterol and blood pressure,” Konforti adds. “Quite simply, sitting restricts your body’s blood flow, making it harder for it to do its job.” And if you’re sitting at work, you’re actually making yourself dumber. “Sitting reduces the flow of oxygenated blood to the brain, which impacts brain function and efficiency,” says Konforti.
So, what to do?
Well, first thing first, you should stand up and walk around. Konforti recommends standing up for five minutes every hour. “Take calls while standing, make trips to the water cooler, use breaks for short walks, or try a standing desk.” He also stresses how common chronic sitting is. “I’ve personally never seen a client who doesn’t have the typical tight and weak muscles caused by too much sitting,” Konforti claims. “The severity varies, but I’d say 99 percent of people show some sign of poor posture from sitting too much.”
Exercise is important, to keep that old beach chair body functioning like new. Here are seven stretches and movements Konforti recommends to counteract the sitting. Unless otherwise noted, hold each stretch for 30-60 seconds repeating twice. Aim to do these movements at least three times per week to see results but the more often the better.
Hip Flexor Stretch
Starting in a split squat or lunge position, square your hips forward allowing the back heel to lift off the ground. Sink the back knee toward the ground while lifting both arms overhead. Rest the back knee on the ground if needed.
Doorway Chest Stretch
Stand in a doorway with your right foot in front of your left. Lift your left arm up just above 90 degrees and place your left elbow and forearm against the wall. Lean forward until you feel a stretch in your chest and hold. Switch your foot stance and repeat the stretch for your right side.
Stand on a box and grab a pull-up bar with an overhand shoulder-width grip. Keeping the arms straight, slowly squat down until you feel a stretch in your lats and breathe. Work up to hanging with all your bodyweight.
Start with your feet shoulder-width apart, and pointing straight ahead. Keeping the spine neutral, dip the upper body towards the ground reaching with the arms. Stop once you feel tension or your lower back begins to round.
Lay face up on the ground with your feet flat in a sit-up position. Place your arms by your sides. Pressing through your heels lift your hips up so your body makes one straight line from your knees to your shoulders. Repeat this for two sets of 15 repetitions holding at the top for two seconds each.
Lie face down on the floor with your hands underneath your shoulders. Exhale and lift your chest up keeping your blades tight and together. Hold at the top for two seconds then lower down. Repeat this for two sets of 15 repetitions.
Start on the ground facing down. Place your elbows directly underneath your shoulders and make a straight line with your head, shoulders, upper back, hips, and heels. Hold this position for 30 seconds, repeating it twice.