With many jobs requiring you to park your ass in front of a computer all day, spending an hour in your commute, and then going home and binge watching The Walking Dead, it’s no wonder why everyone has posture issues and lower back problems.
Living a sedentary life brings havoc into your lifting and if you live a sedentary lifestyle, these stretches should be in your daily routine.
Effects of Living a Sedentary Lifestyle
The effects of living a sedentary lifestyle are more dramatic and harmful than most think. I still to this day hear my mother to tell my grandmother to “not do so much.” While this may sound like a good idea to most, it is actually harming her more than helping her.
Life is movement and movement is life.
When we sit for extended periods of time, we are increasing our chances of obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, osteoporosis, metabolic disorders, back issues, and muscle imbalances.
Along with these issues, repeated periods of long sitting put your hip flexors in a tightened and shortened position and your hip extensors in a lengthened and weakened state. This is why your lower back may hurt after just a minute of standing — you have some muscle imbalances and you need to complete these stretches if you want to increase your quality of life.
If you’ve ever slept with your arm bent all night and in the morning went to straighten it and you felt pain; that happens to your hips every hour you sit.
Simply standing and moving around throughout the day will help increase blood flow, circulation, and help get your brain and muscles some fresh oxygen.
Tips for getting more active
You don’t need to start playing basketball for hours or run a marathon to get a little more active. Small changes such as taking more trips to bring in the groceries (yeah, like that will happen), getting up and stretching or moving during commercials, or taking a periodic walk around the office will help dramatically.
Whenever you stand up after sitting for a long time and you stretch with your hands out wide and you pop your back, you are doing a backbend.
Backbends improve your posture by activating and strengthening the supporting muscles of the spine, stretching your constricted pec major, pec minor, subclavius, and sternalis and helps put your vertebrae back in alignment.
The traditional backbend requires you to reach behind you and put your hands on a wall. The majority of you may not be able to do this, so using a foam roller, pillows, or some other object to help stretch will be extremely beneficial to you.
Since the majority of sitting jobs require you to be in a hunched over pronated position, shoulder openers are one of the best things you can do for your shoulders and scapula. Coupled with the supported backbend, this stretch will allow you to have functional shoulders that will allow you to bench and overhead press with less pain and impingement.
Keeping your upper body in a straightened position, grab a rope, belt, or bands behind your back. Slowly raise your hands back and up as far as you can without pain. You will start to notice your shoulders gaining mobility and with a consistent stretching routine, you will start to have painless shoulders in no time.
The low cobra pose will strengthen your back while your chest and hip flexors stretch. This movement is great and basically is the opposite position in regards to your muscles as sitting.
While you won’t be able to stretch as much as the picture above, you will notice after a few times stretching that this movement becomes easier and you immediately feel better after doing it.
Personally, my hips are extremely tight from sitting in this office chair. So much so that I can’t even sit in an Indian-style position.
The figure 4 pose shown above stretches your ITP band, glutes, and the smaller muscles in your hip and will allow your hips to sit in their natural position much easier.
If you’ve ever had a knee, hip, or foot injury, you notice that the opposite side hip feels pain and feels much tighter. This stretch helps alleviate the imbalances and will put your body in a more stable and natural position.
The star reach, when coupled with supported backbends, and shoulder openers, will allow you to truly address any muscle imbalances in your upper body.
If you’ve ever had issues with military pressing or an overhead press, you’re likely to help alleviate these pains with this exercise.
With your arms straight up, stretch your body up and back. You’ll feel stretching in your chest, abs, lats, biceps, and triceps. Many people perform this movement when they stretch after inactivity. Once you stretch your upper body out, you’ll notice hips and quads start feeling the stretch too.
Spider-Man Lunge Stretch
Take a wide lunge step and drive your hips down to the floor. You will feel a great stretch in the back leg.
For an added benefit, stretch your arm on the front leg side straight up and twist slightly.
Lunge with Rotation
The lunge with rotation is a great mobility exercise that helps maintain the flexibility of the spine while you build strength and increase mobility in your legs.
Check out the video above for an in-depth how-to.
Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch
Performing a kneeling hip flexor stretch is one of the most effective hip flexor stretches I’ve ever used.
Regardless of your amount of mobility, this exercise is like a lunge with your leg bent. The bend in the leg stretches your quads and your hip flexors, allowing your hips to gain mobility.
For those who are not flexible enough to stretch like the image above: Set your power rack’s catches at a medium level. Bend your leg and hook your foot on the catches and slowly lunge forward and bring your hips down.
While you are stretching at the power rack, another useful mobility stretch that I like to complete is to go into a deep squat position while holding the rack. You can go further into a deep squat position and hold it, moving around and really getting a good stretch in.
Doing these stretches and working on increasing mobility will help offset some of the negative impacts that long periods of sitting can cause.
I highly recommend starting a stretching and mobility regimen and start enjoying a balanced pain-free body.
Do not perform these exercises to the point you experience pain. When stretching, you should only feel a slight tension when you stretch and you should feel refreshed afterward. Repeat each exercise two to three times and carefully try to stretch a little further each time.
Focus your breathing and consult with your doctor before you start a regular stretching regimen.