By now you’ve heard about the benefits of sitting less a time or two. Maybe you’ve created a standing desk or experimented with sitting on the floor in a variety of positions. Changing you position throughout the day (rather than sitting in one position ALL day) has improved your health in countless ways. Well done!
Here is series to help relieve the lower body tension caused by excessive sitting. These exercises can easily be done at the work– no need to change clothes, get all sweaty, or buy special equipment! The tension in the legs and hips can cause back/hip/leg pain, incontinence, prostate inflammation, pelvic pain, sciatica, poor circulation, muscle weakness and countless other ailments. For best results, do these at least 2-3 times during the day. It is best to do these exercises barefoot or in socks, as wearing shoes will interfere and make the exercise less effective. You can also combine these exercises with short walks around your office (or even outside of your building) every time you need to make a phone call. Even if it’s just for 5-10 minutes, moving instead of being stationary improves circulation and glucose regulation. Some say that sitting for too long increases your risk for developing type 2 diabetes by 91% even if you exercise regularly!
1) Double Calf Stretch: This is a great way to work on untucking the pelvis and stretch the calves and hamstrings. Roll up a towel or yoga mat. Place the balls of both feet on the towel with the heels on the floor. Place your hands on a chair and bend forward from the hips. Your feet should be pointing straight ahead. Let your hips back up so that there is more weight in your heels. Lift the tailbone up towards the ceiling without bending your knees.
2) #4 Stretch: This stretches the piriformis and is great for those suffering from sciatica. It can be done any time you are sitting or standing.
Seated: Sit on your “sitz bones” the edge of your seat. Cross your left ankle over your right knee without letting your pelvis tuck. Relax the left knee towards the floor without letting your pelvis shift to the side
Standing: Stand on your right leg and cross the left ankle over the right knee. Bend the right knee like you are sitting in a chair (like a 1 leg squat). Lift the tailbone towards the ceiling as you back the hips up. Hold onto a chair or wall for balance.
3) Wide Leg Wall Glide: To stretch the inner thighs, stand with your legs wide and feet about 6 inches from a wall. Hinge forward from the hips, tailbone to the ceiling. Then glide the pelvis right to leg along the wall. Keep your gluts against the wall and the knees straight (relax the quads if you can). The hands can rest on a chair for support. This can be done without a wall as well.
4) Pelvic List: Stand with the right foot on a step, phone book or block. Line up the outside edge of your foot with the edge of the step to straighten the foot. Slowly lower the left foot towards the ground (without bending the knee) and bring it back up using the muscles of the standing leg (not the muscles of the low back or waist). This exercise strengthens the muscles on the outside of the hip.
5) Door Knob Squats: These are a great way to simultaneously stretch and strengthen the gluts and hamstrings. The strength and mobility required to squat is essential for pelvic floor, hip and low back health. As you bend your knees, back up your hips as far as you can, untuck the pelvis and lift the tailbone. Keep the knees over the ankles (vertical shins) to both protect the knees and help you use your gluts and hamstrings. Holding onto a door knob will help you back your pelvis up.
For more “at work” exercises to address computer claw hands and shoulder tension, see Part 2.
I recommend Katy Bowman’s book, Don’t Just Sit There. It’s a comprehensive guide to sitting less and moving more, without compromising your productivity. Another good resource is this list of ways to create a more active workstation.
I’ve had many friends, family members and clients complain of sciatica lately, so I wanted to write a post for them. I wanted to start out by showing you the anatomy of the piriformis muscle and sciatic nerve. You can see how a tight piriformis would agrivate the sciatic nerve. It’s relatively rare, but in some people, the nerve actually goes RIGHT THROUGH THE MIDDLE of the muscle. You can see the variations in anatomy in the images below.
So this is happening….
Which means I’m spending A LOT of time sitting in the car. You all know how I feel about sitting. You know when you’ve been in the car a long time and your butt or legs start to go numb? If you’ve never experienced this, trust me, it’s the worst. Pain, numbness, and tingling are all signs that something is awry. It’s your body’s way of getting your attention, “Hey, look over here, things are not right!”. It’s like a fire alarm going off. When you are on a road trip or just spend a lot of time driving, you can do these 2 exercises to help lessen the negative effects of excessive sitting.
SQUATS: These are a great way to stretch AND strengthen the gluts and hamstrings. As muscles contract and relax, they draw blood into the area. This increase in circulation helps decrease swelling, numbness, and pain. To do a proper squat, back up your hips as far as you can, untuck the pelvis and lift the tailbone. Keep the knees over the ankles (vertical shins) to both protect the knees and help you access your gluts and hamstrings. You can lower yourself as close to the ground as you can without letting the tailbone tuck under and the knees come forward. Holding onto a pole, tree, or another person will help your get your hips all the way back. Gradually try to use less arms and more gluts/hamstrings to hold you up.
I’m just going to put this out there. I’ve never been more grateful for my ability to squat than in the last 2,000 miles. The better you become at squatting, the easier time you will have “hovering” at those rest stop bathrooms. Let’s be honest ladies, it’s a skill we all need.
“Number 4” Stretch: You can do it seated as well, but when you’ve been sitting for the last 2,000 miles, who wants to spend another minute seated?! This is my favorite road trip stretch because it stretches your tight gluts and piriformis (one of the deep muscles of the hip) and helps restore blood flow to the gluteal area. This is also a great stretch for sciatic pain. There are a lot of great stretches for these muscles, but this one is awesome because you don’t have to sit or lay down on anything gross at the rest stop. Back your hips up like you are doing a one legged squat. Untuck the pelvis and lift the tailbone up. Cross one ankle over the opposite knee, KEEPING THE PELVIS UNTUCKED. When you get good at it, you can let go of your hands to test your balance and build strength.
Whether you are sitting all day in a car or in the office, take 5 minutes every hour to run through these 2 exercises. Hold for a minute each, then repeat. You will feel so much better at the end of the day!