What Sitting Does to Your Body & How To Fix It

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While some of you have the luxury of not being at a desk (or driving) all day, many of you are sentenced to sit for extended periods of time.. I'd like to share with you the physical changes that accompany "deskboundedness" and some stretches and correctives you can employ throughout your day to feel better.

1. Hips
Sitting puts your hips in a very shortened state, kind of like the bottom of a squat. The major difference, however, is that your stomach muscles are not turned on. This leads to short (and angry) hip flexors and dead-as-a-doorknob glutes (butt muscles).
Over time this muscular imbalance leads to anterior pelvic tilt.
What the heck is that?
If you imagine your hips are a bowl, it should ideally be able to hold water because it's upright. As you sit more your hips tilt forward and that bowl would pour water out the front instead of holding it nicely. That tilt then leads to its own host of lower back and hip problems. How do you fix it? Once every hour get up and walk, do a kneeling hip flexor stretch, and/or turn your glutes on. See below for pictures of these!

2. Upper Back/Shoulders
Hunching forward to type, drive. look at your phone, or eat creates another tilt in your system around your shoulders. Your thoracic (top half) spine is flexed forward when it should be upright or slightly extended, your head is dropped forward and down instead of sitting pretty on top of your spine, and your shoulders are internally rotated. Over time this leads to tightness in your pecs (chest), traps, and neck extensors (back of your neck). Many people experience tension headaches, shoulder issues, and restricted breathing as a result of their imbalances. How do you fix it? Sit straight up like you're trying to scrape your head on the ceiling, adjust your screen higher so it's at eye level when you're sitting tall, and do a pec (or internal rotation) stretch every hour or so. See below for examples!

3. Core/Breathing
Mostly as a result of the other two areas of restriction, your core mechanics and breathing can be thrown way off by extended sitting day after day. Like I said earlier, you're not using your core when you're sitting down. Combined with the forward hunch and your hip flexors being tight, this essentially makes you crunch your guts all up in the front and extend them too much in the back. Also with all the tightness around your upper back and spine you generally tend to chest breathe instead of belly (diaphragm) breathe. This further serves to mess up your posture and can even lead to chronic stress, COPD, and cardiovascular issues. How do you fix it? Change your position; practice some breathing into your belly. Get up and walk every hour, lay on the floor and belly breathe, or practice using your core when you sit tall (like the bottom of a box squat).Doing just 2-5 minutes of active stretching and resetting your posture every hour will give you immense benefits in performance, sleeping, and overall health. 

This is a hip flexor stretch, great way to stretch your hips!

This is a hip flexor stretch, great way to stretch your hips!

Stand in the doorway for this upper body stretch!

Stand in the doorway for this upper body stretch!

Notice how you are sitting in your chair when you do sit, are you slumped over?

Notice how you are sitting in your chair when you do sit, are you slumped over?