You don’t have to look far these days to see or hear about people experiencing the negative effects of too much sitting down for extended periods of time – especially in the corporate world. Obesity, short tight weak muscles, limited range of movement and Netflix, can be all symptoms of too much sitting.
Don’t stick your head in the sand thinking you’re immune from the effects of excessive sitting, even if you’re pencil thin and meet the government’s suggested physical activity guidelines. It might sound like an oxymoron, but you can be training like Rocky once a day, but if you spend 9+ hours a day looking at screens with sedentary behavior, then it might not be enough to offset negative health risks. (3) We need to understand that whatever stressors or continued exposure we place on your body will impact health outcomes for positive or negative. This can be explained by the “S.A.I.D” principal (Specific Adaption to Imposed Demand), which comes from valid science that your body will adapt specifically to what you train it for. (1, 2) For example if a person had been living a relatively sedentary lifestyle and decided that he/she are going to go out into the garden, digging holes for plants and sweeping leaves for an entire day… Chances are they will get a few blisters on their hands and a shitload of muscles will be sore the next day. In this case, by doing the gardening, this has imposed stressors on the body that it is not used to and this forces the body to try to adapt and recover. If the previously sedentary person continued to do the gardening everyday for the next month, then they would adapt to the activities e.g. would develop calluses and develop the muscles required to perform those tasks without gaining soreness each day.
This same principle applies to sitting – we adapt to whatever we are being exposed to on a continued basis. If we wake from our slumber in the morning, eat breakfast/read the paper/check emails, drive to the gym (workout for 60min), drive to work, sit at our office desk till lunch, walk to the café or park for lunch to be seated, sit at our office desk till the end of the day, drive home in peak hour traffic, eat dinner, and finally cap off the day with some TV… That equates to an estimated 13+ hours that your poor over-sat butt has to support the rest of your body!
Sitting at your desk all day with your hips and knees in flexion, head forward and shoulders rounded, chances are there are some muscles that have become short, tight and possibly difficult to activate. Combined with stressful work deadlines creating higher circulating cortisol levels that can sometimes almost match those of someone who has just committed homicide; these factors can play havoc on your athletic performance.
There is no perfect answer because large majorities of people are sedentary for their occupations and even those who are active for their occupations (athletes, labourers etc.) can present with symptoms of sitting too much. With that in mind, it’s important to have some strategies in place to offset and reduce the side effects of sitting.
Here are 5 tips you can do when at work or at home to help reduce the side effects of extended sitting or lack of physical movement:
1. Take regular stand up breaks or even better get an adjustable stand up desk
2. When taking phone calls, try passing up and down the corridor or stand. Side note: standing actually helps with voice projection and tone.
3. Do a “Grok” squat every day for one min.
4. Kelly Starret’s “couch” stretch
5. Stay hydrated. Believe it or not, being hydrated actually affects the quality of your soft tissues and reduces the chances of injuries.
Here are 5 general warm-ups that will help your next workout:
1. Lying vertical on a foam roller placed in the middle of your spine, diagrammatically breathe for 2 min with eyes closed and preferably in a quiet place. Research has shown that breathing exercises reduce salivary cortisol, improve cognitive function & athletic performance. (photo)
2. Self-myofascial release (SMR) in built up areas of tightness, in particular hip flexors, glutes, quads, calf, T-spine and plantar fascia.
3. Active isolation stretches (5-10 reps with 2 sec holds) e.g. supine 90/90 banded hamstring stretch or supine leg cradle hip rotators stretch. (photo)
4. Glute activation e.g. single leg hip bridge or mini banded walks.
5. Dynamic flexibility: move actively through movement patterns specific to exercises that are going to be in the training session e.g. walking knee hug or Worlds Greatest (see picture).
Implementing some or all of these tips will dramatically improve your health and overall performance for the everyday person.
Stand up and be active!
- Blazevich AJ, and Jenkins DG. Effect of the movement speed of resistance training exercises on sprint and strength performance in concurrently training elite junior sprinters. Journal of Sports Sciences 20: 981-990, 2002.
- Cronin J, McNair PJ, and Marshall RN. Velocity specificity, combination training and sport specific tasks. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport 4: 168-178, 2001.
- Garber CE, Blissmer B, Deschenes MR, Franklin BA, Lamonte MJ, Lee I-M, Nieman DC, and Swain DP. Quantity and quality of exercise for developing and maintaining cardiorespiratory, musculoskeletal, and neuromotor fitness in apparently healthy adults: guidance for prescribing exercise. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise 43: 1334-1359, 2011.