Too Much Down Time?
Here's a simple exercise to help counter a life of too much sitting
Most people sit too much. Way too much.
Some of us in healthcare who spend quite a bit of time on our feet may feel wrongly accused, but make sure you're also factoring in time at home and your drive to work. There are certainly exceptions among us, but as a society, the statistics show that we're not on our own two legs nearly enough.
And the dangers of sitting are becoming more and more publicized. Studies in clinical publications ranging from the European Heart Journal and the Journal of British Medicine to the American Institute of Cancer Research and Australia's Archives of Internal Medicine indicate that excessive time in our chairs can put us at higher risk for heart disease, colon cancer, and metabolic diseases like diabetes, inflammation, obesity, poor circulation and even premature death.
What's interesting about the newer studies is the assertion that even people who get to the gym before or after work, walk several times a week or engage in similar activities, eat a healthy diet and otherwise maintain a focus on their health are still at risk for the same health issues as their less fit counterparts, although to a somewhat lesser degree. As it turns out, the problem is related to the total time sitting without getting up and moving, despite physical activities carried out at other times of the day.
So what's the antidote for the health risks of prolonged sitting? As you might expect, it involves getting up and moving more frequently than most people generally do. One consideration regarding that objective is as easy and straight forward as standing up while you talk on the phone or look at emails or other correspondence.
But keep in mind that the real key to getting the benefits of an upright position is to do something more than just standing up. You've got to move in order to create muscle contractions which appear to be crucial to avoiding all those risks associated with the sedentary life. So while you're up it's important to walk around just a bit, do a few knee bends or try some hip flexor stretches. And just what are hip flexor stretches? Read on.
This tip for the hips has a lot of other benefits, too.
The simple, easy-to-do exercise described below can help counterbalance the prolonged hip flexion that comes from sitting too long. The problem of prolonged sitting is that it causes the hip flexors, the large muscles at the front of the hips that we use to bring our knees up toward our chest, to become overactive and shortened. The result can be an overall feeling of tightness and long-term discomfort in the hips as well as in the knees and lower back.
So in order to keep the hip flexors limber, try this when you get up:
- Take one step forward.
- Point the toes of your back foot at the forward foot's heel.
- Squeeze your buttocks so that your lower back flattens and rounds a bit.
- Keep the abs tight and bend the forward knee until you feel a stretch at the front of the hip on the same side as the back foot.
Not much to it and it's unobtrusive enough to do a number of times during the day without looking or feeling too strange around your fellow team members. Because not only will hip flexor stretches help you stay looser and more comfortable through the hips, back and knees, but they provide the kind of muscle contraction that's part of an effective strategy for reducing or avoiding the far more serious health risks that go along with too many hours in our seat.
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