We’ve all heard the quote “Sitting is the new smoking.” And that statement is true for many parts of the body, including heart health, digestion, musculoskeletal health, and more! As we send our kids back to school and working professionals prepare for the last quarter, we’re in for more sitting! This brief article focuses on 4 stretches that can help combat the negative effects of sitting.
What happens to our muscles when we sit for long periods of time?
There are two different muscular responses to sitting:
- Tighter muscles– some muscles are in a shortened position when sitting. For example, the hamstrings are shorter because of the bend in the knee and the hip flexors are shorter because of the bend in the hip. The average adult sits for 9-10 hours per day. If muscles are not stretched during that time, they become accustomed to new, shorter position. As days, weeks, or months by the body has a “new normal” that is not ideal for the rest of the body, like the low back.
- Stretched, weaker muscles– some muscles are in a stretched position when sitting. It might sound advantageous, however when muscles are in a stretched state for long periods of time they become weaker. For example, the muscles between the shoulder blades are stretched as the shoulders hunch forward in a typical poor posture pattern. It gets harder and harder to comfortably keep our shoulders back and down as they should be naturally. Another stretch-weakened muscle is in the buttocks, the piriformis muscle. Over time, a dysfunctional piriformis muscle can lead to hip and low back pain. Although these muscles are already “stretched,” it is important that we don’t neglect them in a stretching routine. They still need the same TLC as our other muscles. (We’ll talk about strengthening for sitting in another article!)
Check out one of Body Logic’s September classes “Exercise for Busy Professionals.” Brian from Anytime Fitness will be teaching you ways to help yourself Move Better, Feel Better, and Live Better! Click here to sign up– limited space available!