We’ve all heard by now that by sitting all day we are killing ourselves, or perhaps less dramatically, we are negatively affecting our health with this sedentary lifestyle. The information on the subject has been a topic that has received a lot of research worldwide. Healthcare policy makers, practitioners, and researchers attempt to sort out the science and best practices in order get people feeling better and living happier lives. In truth, my entire drive as a chiropractor is for this very goal: I want you moving and feeling good while you do the things that you want to do. Now gumdrops and rainbows aside, our society still has sitting ingrained in daily lives. Seriously. We sit all the time. We sit at work, we sit in the car, and then we go home sit at the dinner table only to finish up with some sitting in front of the TV. There’s even some data that exercise alone isn’t enough to combat our sitting lifestyles. Sitting in and of itself is a problem, but there are a few things that we can do to combat the stresses of such an activity. Today I will cover 4 exercises and activities that a chronic sitter can do to improve their health.
4 exercises for people who sit most of the day
- Walking. The thing is, walking produces a number of mechanical forces that help drive our natural body processes. Additionally it increases our metabolism and burns extra calories. My recommendation is to start small if you are not into walking. Park at the back of the parking lot. Get out of your chair and walk about the office (perhaps for a drink of water?) for a couple of minutes every 1/2 hour or so. Even better, take a walk before work, at lunch, and/or after work. Standing up and walking is our first step in combating chronic sitting. The trick is to make it a habit by slowly adding as much walking to your day as you can. Many people make it a game by using a FitBit or some other form of pedometer.
- Bruegger’s Relief Position/Pose. How do we fight the posture slump that comes with sitting all day? We start by moving and stretching our bodies in the opposite direction. The Bruegger’s relief position or pose is one of my absolute favorite activities to counteract my patient’s sitting and posture issues. This can be better shown than explained, but the steps are simple: Stand or sit up straight near the edge of a chair. Point your chest up toward to sky to open it up and nod your chin down slightly . Hold your arms at about 45 degrees from your body and rotate your arms and palms up towards the ceiling as you gently squeeze your shoulder blades back and down. Take a deep breath and hold this position for about 10 seconds. Repeat this activity several times throughout the day.
- Standing Back Extensions. It’s no secret that extended periods of sitting can cause low back stiffness and pain. The problem with sitting is that it often holds the lumbar spine in a forward flexed position. The long term results of this can be stiffness, low back pain, or even pain in the legs. To protect against these negative forces we will often have patients do a series of standing back extensions. To perform these stand in a stable position with your feet about shoulder width apart. With your hands on your low back, slowly extend your back until you reach a natural good stretch point. The go further you can extend your neck back and breath out. Hold this position for 1-2 seconds and then return to the starting position. Repeat this for 5 reps several times a day. A few notes here before we move on. This exercise should always feel good and you should never feel worse or feel any sort of radiating pain in your buttock or legs. The rule of thumb is that you should always move to the point that you feel a good stretch, not a lasting pain. If you do, stop the exercise immediately and contact a healthcare professional.
- Seated Lower Thoracic Stretch. Along with the lower lumbar spine, the lower thoracic spine can get very stiff if you have been sitting for a long time – especially if you haven’t maintained your lumbar curve! This exercise is simple to do and can be done with any chair though a low back chair is preferred if you can find one. While sitting, place your interlocked hands behind your neck. Gently raise your elbows towards the sky and extend your middle and lower thoracic spine until you feel a good stretch (not a painful feeling!). Hold that position for 1-2 seconds and then lower your elbows back to the starting position. Repeat this for 5 reps several times a day as needed. A low back chair will give you a good fulcrum point to get an additional stretch if you aren’t feeling much when you are performing this activity.
You should always consult a qualified practitioner such as our doctors of chiropractic before you start any daily exercise or stretch routine, especially if you have current symptoms of any type or a history of injury. The chiropractors at Community Chiropractic Clinic, LLC pride ourselves on teaching our patients how to avoid or mitigate potential injuries from occurring while we do our regular daily activities. If you find that you are stiff or sore after sitting for long periods of time, give us call at 907-222-2100 to make an appointment. Life is too short to live in discomfort!
Kelly Ryan, DC