We all know that prolonged sitting takes a toll on our bodies. It can lead to stiff joints, weak muscles and an overall sedentary lifestyle that may increase your risk for disease.
Our bodies were made to move! But, the reality for many of us is that we have to sit, sometimes for a long time. Ann Heckler, fitness instructor at ProMedica Wildwood Athletic Club, says that listening to your body is key.
“Move when you need to move,” she says. If you’re typing at a computer, stop to rotate your wrists every 15 minutes or so. Depending on your job, get up to walk when you can. How you sit is important, too. “When you’re seated at your desk, you should have your sitting bones (the bony protrusions on your bottom that touch the seat of your chair) higher than your knees.”
“You can also firm your core while sitting,” says Heckler. “Try to lift the area just below your navel area up and back, as if you are pulling it into your ribs. You can perform this exercise anywhere, such as an office chair or even the car. When done regularly, it can build strength in the low abs and support for your low back.”
Good posture makes a difference, too. Sitting with your shoulders slouched and your tailbone tucked under can lead to strain and muscle weakness. Your pelvis should be in a neutral position and your shoulder blades pulled down toward your waist so your upper back muscles are engaged. This will help keep your body aligned while sitting.
For chronic sitters, Heckler recommends three types of stretching that move your spine in the various directions that it needs to move. “Try to make time to fit these movements into your workday at least every hour, or more frequently if you feel discomfort or compression building up,” she says.
Flexion Extension (Seated Cat Cow)
Similar to a “cat cow” movement, this exercises helps awaken your spine and get blood moving. Round your back and tuck your tailbone under, then pull your shoulders and tailbone back to extend.
This rotation is a little more than just a turn or twist. Keep your hips and legs stable, then pull yourself up tall before rotating. “A spinal twist should be like going up a spiral staircase–you’d go up and around and not just turn yourself around,” explains Heckler. It shouldn’t be a big or fast movement either. Ease into it mindfully.
Lateral Flexion (Side Bends)
Similar with a rotation, pull yourself up tall before bending to each side. Hold each bend for about five breaths.