Are you sitting down? We have something important to tell you. Do you sit all day for your job? It is estimated that 86% of Americans spend the majority of their work day sitting. If you come home and watch television or relax on the couch, then you are spending additional time sitting. The average American can spend up to 10-13 hours a day sitting.
It is easy to imagine that all of this sitting can be harmful for your body. First of all, it can affect your posture. A lot of sitting (especially sitting with incorrect posture) can lead to strain on your back muscles and spine. Additionally, sitting can lead to poor circulation in your legs. Among other adverse side effects, sitting can also lead to muscle degeneration as certain muscles do not get utilized.
Many of you are sitting while reading this and getting a little concerned! What can you do to counteract the negative effects? Fortunately, there are three simple ways to counteract the effects of so much sitting.
This is as straightforward as it sounds. Approximately sixty minutes of activity per day will balance out many of the negative side effects of sitting. While an hour of activity may sound daunting, start incorporating activity in increments of 10-15 minutes into your day and you will be surprised how much you can fit in. Taking a walk during your lunch break or simply parking further away are simple ways to build exercise into your day.
I am not telling you that you have to go out and invest in a standing desk! (However, it is a great way to get out of your chair!) Standing up for 1-2 minutes every hour can help improve circulation and help engage some of the unused muscle groups in your body. Set a timer once per hour to remind you to get up out of your chair. (This does not mean that you need to stand up and get another donut out of the breakroom!) One blogger suggested eating one meal per day standing up. That is a really simple way to incorporate more standing into your day.
Strategic Stretches and Exercises
Here are a few strategic exercises that you can do to help improve your body:
Cat and Cow Yoga Stretches
It might look a bit odd if you start doing this at work, but at the end of the day when you get home it would be wise to do this stretch. Pete Williams, C.P.T. writes (link underlined portion) , “The familiar yoga combo of cat/cow is also an effective way to improve posture and counteract the effects of sitting. It improves flexibility to the lumbar and cervical spine, but it also strengthens and stabilizes the shoulders.”
Planks are an excellent way to engage all of the muscles in your body. This exercise will strengthen your core muscles, which is necessary if you tend to slouch in your chair.
Mountain climbers engage your core muscles as well as improve circulation, both of which are needed if you sit all day.
When you sit all day, it is important to stretch out and utilize your hip flexor muscles. Glute bridges allow for hip extension.
Although sitting can be hard on your body, it is easy to counterbalance it with these three things: start moving, stand up, and strategic exercises. All it takes is a little bit of intentionality to implement these three things and improve your quality of life.