Do you have a desk job? A long commute on top of that? All that sitting could be doing some serious damage to your body! It’s very important to be sure that you’re doing regular stretching and taking breaks throughout the day to ensure you don’t do long-term damage to your body over time. Not only can this cause tight hip muscles, but it also weakens your back and butt. All of these combined creates an environment where injury can happen very easily.
Have you ever gotten up from a sitting position and your butt feels numb and your hips feel so tight that you have to lean forward at the waist just to walk? Excessive sitting leaves your hips and legs overly tight and your glutes inactive.
Some fitness experts argue that sitting causes muscles in the hip area to physically shorten (and stay shorter), even after you stand up. While there are no scientific studies to back that claim, from my own personal experience, sitting for lengthy periods of time definitely makes everything feel tight in my hip area.
Having a healthy range of motion in your hips not only feels good, but it can also help prevent injury when you are more active. Taking care of your hips may also help improve your posture, which can in turn alleviate back or neck pain.
Here are a few strategies you can use to help prevent you from turning into a total mess from sitting at your desk all day!
- Utilize a standing work station. A work station that is set up for proper ergonomics can do wonders for the body, physically and mentally.
- If you can’t stand at your workstation, I recommend you stand for at least 5 minutes for every 30 minutes you are sitting. If you can stretch during that five minute break, that’s even better!
- If you can’t be seen visibly standing to “take a break,” find some work you can do that requires getting up and moving. For example, making copies, walking to a colleagues office rather than calling, going to the water cooler for a drink or a bathroom break. Try to do one of these at least every 30 minutes to avoid prolonged sitting.
- Do regular hip stretches to prevent overly tight hips from causing imbalance in your body. If you can do these during your 5 minute breaks, this would be ideal. See below for some popular hip stretches from www.artofmanillness.com.
This is a great dynamic stretch that I do before every workout. It loosens up the hips, hamstrings, and glutes.
Begin with forward leg swings. Find something to hold for balance. Start off swinging your right leg backwards and forwards as high and as far back as you comfortably can. Do 20 swings and then switch legs.
Next are side-to-side swings. Again, find something to hold for balance. Swing your right leg out to the side as high as possible and then in front of you towards your left as far as you can go. Perform 20 swings and then switch legs. Depending on how tight you feel, you may need another set.
The Grok Squat is very similar to a catcher’s stance in baseball. Simply squat down until your butt touches your ankles. Keep your heels firmly on the ground and your back straight. Hold that position for 30-60 seconds. You should feel your hamstrings, quads, Achilles tendons, lower back, and groin gently stretching. If you’re super stiff, it may take a few days of practice to sink into a full squat. Keep at it. Your back and hips will thank you.
Intersperse a few short squatting sessions into your daily routine.
Table Pigeon Pose
If you’ve done yoga, you’re probably familiar with the pigeon pose. This stretch is the same thing, except you use a table, which makes it a bit easier to perform and allows you to stretch out your muscles from different angles. Start by placing your leg on a tabletop (you could also use your bed) with the knee bent at 90 degrees. Place one hand on the table and one hand on your foot for support. Lean forward and hold for 60-90 seconds. Then lean left to the 10 o’clock position and hold for 60-90 seconds. Lean right to the 2 o’clock position and hold for 60-90 seconds. Repeat on the other leg.
If you have knee problems, rotate your body so that your ankle hangs off the table and place a pillow underneath your knee. Aim to do two pigeon poses a day (I personally do one during my workout and another at a random time).
This stretch is a killer. I didn’t realize how unlimber I was until I tried doing the couch stretch. It’s basically a quad stretch ratcheted up a few notches. Starrett argues that this will undo years of sitting.
You actually don’t need a couch for this stretch, it just makes it a bit more comfortable (if that’s even possible). You can also do it on the floor by putting your knee against a wall.
For the “easy” version, place the knee of the leg you’re stretching against the back of your sofa. Place the foot of your other leg on the floor. Slowly raise your torso to a neutral spine position (i.e. standing straight and tall). As you raise your torso, squeeze your butt and abs. Hold the position for up to four minutes. Switch and repeat on the other leg. You should feel things really stretch in your hip flexor area — just don’t push yourself too hard.
To up the ante, bring your non-stretching leg up onto the seat of the couch. Keeping a straight, neutral spine, squeeze the butt and abs and work your way up to holding the position for four minutes. Keep in mind that it may be awhile before you can get your torso to a straight position. When I first started doing this stretch the “hard way,” I could only raise my torso to a 45-degree angle and I’d have to support myself with my hand on the floor. I was eventually able to move to a straight position after two weeks of dedicated stretching. The difference in the mobility of my hips was (and continues to be) significant.
This stretch is so good that I try to do it every day, sometimes before a workout, sometimes when I’m just hanging out.
By incorporating regular breaks and stretches into your day, you can help to combat some of the damage that is being done to your body from extended sitting. Happy stretching!
DISCLAIMER: The information contained on this site is not provided by medical professionals and is provided for informational purposes only. The information on this site is not meant to substitute consulting with your podiatrist, doctor or other health care professional. The information available on or through this site is in no way intended to diagnose, influence treatment or cure any foot or other health problems nor is it a substitute for the services or advice of a podiatrist, physician, or health professional. You should always consult a physician licensed in your state in all matters relating to your health.