We can all relate to having times when we sit too much. Whether it’s from traveling, being stuck indoors during the holidays, or simply having time off.
While it’s good to relax and slow down regularly, too much sitting is not great. Especially when you regularly commute and sit down most of the day at work.
You may have heard that sitting is the new smoking, but what is actually happening when you sit too long?
- Your joints stiffen up into the sitting position
- Important postural muscles begin to “fall asleep” creating muscular imbalances.
- rounded shoulders
- forward head position
- unstable lower back
What this means: When you sit too much your body gets good at being in the sitting position, but it gets bad at doing everything else.
We all want to run, jump, lift weights, play with our kids PAIN FREE. Unfortunately, as you sit more and more you are slowly losing the ability to access these movements without significant discomfort or pain.
It turns out the phrase, if you don’t use it you lose it, was true.
How do you counteract the physical effects of a sedentary lifestyle?
First, make sure that you are taking movement breaks throughout the day.
This is important not to overlook. Breaking up your day with small movement-breaks is crucial to staying mobile and pain-free over the long-term. (If you missed my article explaining how and why to use movement-breaks, click this link and check it out).
Second, when planning your workout routine, make sure to include exercises that loosen important joints and strengthen important postural muscles.
This is the step that we are going to focus on in this article.
Luckily for you, there is a lot of overlap between keeping your joints mobile and your postural muscles strong and healthy.
What are the most important joints to keep loose and mobile?
Note: It goes without saying that all of your joints are important, but for this article, I am focusing on exercises and joints that give you the most bang for your buck.
Each of these joints is designed to move as much as possible so that you can keep your back stable and strong.
When we sit too much, these joints stiffen up and can’t move as much as they should. As a result, your spine has to move extra to compensate.
When your spine starts picking up the slack for your other joints, something it’s not designed to do, it eventually causes pain and discomfort.
Whether that discomfort shows up first in the upper, middle, or lower back varies person to person, but it will eventually show up.
So far you’ve learned:
- When we consistently sit, the joints of the body stiffen up while muscles important for maintaining posture weaken.
- The solution to this problem is taking movement breaks, detailed in this article, and to design your workout routine around mobilizing the important joints and strengthening the correct muscles.
- Lastly, we can often do both at the same time
Now that we know a little bit about the WHY, let’s dive into the HOW.
When designing your workout routine, the clear focus should be on keeping the hips, shoulders, and ankles moving smoothly, and on making your back and core as strong and stable as possible.
Here are a few exercises for each joint that are perfect for helping them move better: (click on each exercise to be taken to a video demonstration.)
- Shoulder circles
- Shoulder capsular circles
- Scapular circles
- Band internal/external rotation
- Threading the needle
How do you incorporate these exercises?
Depending on your level of fitness these exercises can be used during your warm up, combined with strength training, or simply on their own.
If your workout is focused on upper-body exercises (row, press, curls, swimming) pick 2-4 of the shoulder exercises and do 1-2 sets of 5-10 reps incorporating them into your warm-up, in between sets, or as part of your cool down. The same goes for a lower-body workout.
Full-body workout? Pick a few of each!
There is no wrong way to mix and match these exercises.
You are going to see a ton of improvement in your mobility by consistently working to master these movements over time.
NOTE: This is not a complete list, merely a sample of the most effective exercises for mobilizing each joint and strengthening the connected postural muscles.
And there you have it!
Some of the most effective exercises that you can incorporate into your routine to increase mobility and fight off the effects of too much sitting.
Which exercises have you tried? How are they working for you?
Let me know in the comments below!
Having trouble moving well and staying pain-free with all this downtime?
We are still open for appointments.
Dr. Brink is available for in-office visits, home visits, and telemedicine (virtual) visits!
If you’re interested in having a custom exercise/movement plan designed to address your individual pain points, get in touch with us today!
P.S. Because of these unprecedented times, MAPS Prime Pro, designed by Dr. Brink is 50% off.
Click here and enter code Brink50 to access personalized self-assessments and a library of corrective exercises designed to get you movi