Over the years our lives have become increasingly sedentary. The majority of us drive to work, sit at a desk all day and then return home too tired to do anything else except perhaps plunk onto the couch. The next day the whole cycle starts anew.
However, did you know that sitting too much can severely affect your health and posture? Maybe you’ve already started to notice a few aches and pains in your back, neck, and shoulders or perhaps they’ve always been there but now are noticeably getting worse every day.
So, what can you do? If your job has transformed you into a serial sitter or you’re not as active as you’d like to be, then we’ve got some simple suggestions to improve both your posture and wellbeing.
The stationary act of sitting all day long on our glutes (butt) causes them to switch off and fall asleep. The result is that when we need to engage and work them, they aren’t strong enough anymore. To compensate for this loss in strength, your body then calls upon all the neighboring muscles, in this case, your hamstrings (top of the back of the leg) to help carry out movement normally connected to your glutes. Gradually, this act of muscle overcompensation can lead to muscular and skeletal imbalances, resulting in long-term damage to your posture and making you more susceptible to injuries.
As such, it’s really important that we wake up those sleepy muscles so that they can jump into action correctly when needed. Here are our favorite exercises tailor-made to fire up those sluggish glutes:
- Glute bridge: The name says it all. This exercise will energize and strengthen your butt in no time. It’s also a great way to strengthen your lower back and work on hip mobility, which is perfect if you’re chained to your desk all day. Tip: To increase the difficulty of the exercise, try doing it on one leg.
- Sumo squat: While we all know how effective regular squats are when it comes to strengthening and toning your lower body, the sumo variant specifically targets your glutes. The difference is all in the stance. The wider the stance the more glute activation.
Muscles always work in pairs and that is how movement is created. While one muscle relaxes the other shortens and contracts. This means that while your bum is inactive another muscle, in this case, your hip flexors, are in a constant state of contraction. Not only does sitting for extended periods cause your glutes to weaken, but it also makes your hip flexors become extremely tight.
What can you do? Stretch.
Unless you’re into yoga, oftentimes stretching is treated as a post-workout afterthought or entirely neglected. We believe that stretching is just as important as strengthening when it comes to maintaining a body that is both healthy and functional. Tip: Stretch the hips, spine and hamstrings often.
The hunchback effect
Sitting not only affects the lower half of your body but is equally detrimental to your upper body. Sitting in a hunched position on a daily basis can lead to a number of problems like weak upper and middle back muscles, as well as tightness in the chest.
What can you do? Strengthen and stretch your back.
Strengthen your back with exercises that require you to pull weight (your own bodyweight or free weights) towards to your body. Think bent over rows or pull-ups. Tip: Guarantee you’re engaging the right muscles in any back exercise and pinch your shoulder blades together, hold for 3 seconds, then release.
To stretch this area, find a doorway. Create cactus arms by bending your elbows 90° and bringing them up to shoulder heigh with fingers facing the ceiling. Place your palms on the edge of the doorway and act as if you’re taking a step through. You’ll feel the stretch in your chest and back.
Tips for better posture
Want to improve your posture further? Work these simple habits into your routine:
- Get up and get active by walking to work, going for a lunchtime stroll or taking the stairs.
- If you can, stand at your desk at work instead of sitting.
- Try and sit up straight to avoid that hunched over curved spine.
- Allocate time during the week to regularly exercise and stretch.
If you want to make sure you’re getting active enough, aim to do the HIIT style 8fit workouts at least 4 times a week. Our full body workouts will strengthen the right areas and help you get and stay fit. Moreover, our yoga workouts will balance your workout routine and provide your body with some much-needed stretching. And, most important, your posture will thank you.