We have a sedentary problem. Ninety percent of Americans work at desks. Which means they sit for most of the day.
Left unchecked, this sedentary way of life can lead to all kinds of chronic health problems such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease, three of the most common killers of Americans. Fending off these killers is the most important reason to get out of your seat and stay active.
But the seated position can also lead to more common day-to-day problems that take the shape of pain or discomfort or contribute to long-term problems.
For example, the seated position is really bad for the health of the hip flexors, the muscles at the front of the hips that connect the legs to the torso. They’re shortened in the sitting position, so too much sitting can reduce control and flexibility. That’s a real problem because immobility is the fastest way to “switch off” a muscle, making it harder to use properly.
This is a postural problem that we see in a lot of people: the pelvis tilts forward while the lower spine curves. This places excessive strain on a part of the body already too frequently at risk—80 percent of the population will experience debilitating lower back pain at some point.
Another common postural problem is rounding the upper back and the movement of the head into strange, unhealthy positions. Neck and upper back rounding are a risk factor in the health of the neck, shoulders and lower back. This posture also contributes enormously to tension headaches.
So how do we undo the damage caused by excessive periods of sitting? Here are four key ways:
- Move more
This is obvious: move more and spend less time seated. It will improve your wellbeing, health and posture. We like to think of this as ambient exercise, the kind you get from walking to the store or taking the stairs instead of elevators. The fastest way to undo the damage of sitting is to prevent it. Set your watch alarm to go off every half-hour and stand, stretch and take a lap around the office.
- Exercise more
Get plenty of cardio and ensure you’re moving weights too. A Myx workout is the perfect way to do both efficiently. This provides a synergistic benefit to the heart, keeping you healthy.
- Open the hips
How much time do you spend on mobility and joint care? If you’re like most of us, probably not enough.
In order to stay healthy, your sit-shortened hip flexors and other de-activated muscles need to be stretched and moved through full ranges of motion. Spend some time focusing on this: 10-15 minutes each day stretching the hips and opening them up can prevent the problems discussed above. Again, Myx workouts provide good flexibility routines.
- Strengthen the glutes/core
Whether you sit or stand all day, this is something we all need to do. The muscles of the core and buttocks serve primarily to stabilize and protect the spine. Sitting switches them off, and sitting compresses the spine—a dangerous combination.
Doing ab work and strengthening the muscles of the lower back protects the spine and helps to reduce the risk of chronic, debilitating lower back pain. Flutter kicks and sit-ups are a great way to strengthen front and back.
So the long and the short of it is: get out of your seat, start moving and put some time into remedying the ill effects of desk life.