Americans are notorious for being sedentary compared to the rest of the world—what’s worse is that 86% of Americans sit all day at their jobs, making it difficult to meet the minimum physical activity requirements each day. Sitting for long periods of time will not only increase your risk of becoming overweight, but too much sitting can actually have adverse effects on your health, mobility, and posture. Yikes!
If you have a 9-5 job or happen to spend a little too much time on your bum, not to worry—I’m sharing 7 life-changing stretches for people who sit all day that will relieve pain, correct poor posture, and boost longevity. So, in the words of James Brown, it’s time to “Get up off of that thang!”, learn how to stay active with a desk job, and prioritize some workplace exercise!🍑
Side Effects Of Too Much Sitting
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average American works an average of 8.8 hours per day, commutes an average of 26.9 minutes, and watches television an average of 5 hours—that’s over 14 hours of sitting every single day! Unfortunately, your body won’t let this much sitting go unnoticed.
Here are some physical side effects of sitting too much:
- Back, neck, and shoulder pain
- Posture issues
- Tight hips and muscles
- Digestive issues
- Weaker legs and glutes
- Weight gain
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
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7 Stretches For Sitting All Day
It’s hard to believe that something as simple and mindless as sitting can have such negative repercussions on our health and bodies. Thankfully, there are simple stretches you can do that can prevent, and in some cases reverse, the side effects of sitting too much. Here are 7 simple stretches for people who sit sit all day.
1. Hip Flexor Stretch
This is, hands down, one of my favorite stretches for sitting all day. It’s simple, extremely effective, and boy does it feel great! Here’s how to do it:
- Kneel on your right knee and place your left foot flat on the floor in front of you. Shift your weight slightly forward so your back leg is extended behind you. Remember to keep your left knee and ankle vertically aligned.
- Keeping your chest up and slightly pulled back, push your hips forward while keeping your feet firm on the ground. You should feel a stretch in the front of your right hip. For an even deeper stretch, lift your right hand straight above your head and reach backward and to the left with your head facing up.
- Squeeze your butt and hold the stretch for 30 seconds to 1-2 minutes.
- Switch sides and repeat.
Why you need it:
Your hips are responsible for articulating major movement patterns like sitting and standing through flexion and extension. When you sit, your hips are in constant flexion—meaning, the muscles in your hips (the iliacus and psoas major) are contracted for an extended period of time. Constant hip flexion can cause these muscles to tighten which places excessive pressure on your joints. This can result in hip pain and restricted range of motion.
Holy cat-cow, what an incredible stretch! The cat-cow is the ultimate spine stretch that releases tension in the neck, shoulders, and in the upper and lower back. It even helps stretch your abs, hips, and chest. Here’s how to do it:
- Begin in the tabletop position with your wrists and shoulders aligned, your knees and hips aligned, and your weight distributed evenly through your limbs.
- From here, you will ease into the cat position by tucking your chin to your chest, arching your back, and pulling your pelvis inward. This pose should resemble an angry cat.
- Next, you’ll move into the cow position by pushing your belly towards the floor while lifting your hips and head high into the air to create a U-shape with your back.
- Slowly inhale and exhale between the two movements and hold each pose for about 10 seconds at a time.
Why you need it:
Sitting in an upright position for long periods of time will add immense pressure on your spine as time goes on. This stretch gives your intervertebral discs some much needed space and room to breathe and increases the flexibility in your back and neck.
3. Sphinx / Cobra
The sphinx and cobra stretch aim to elongate your body by stretching the back, chest, abdomen, and hips. Additionally, this stretch opens up the lungs, stimulates the abdominal organs, and improves digestion. Here’s how to do it:
- For those with limited back and abdominal mobility, the sphinx stretch is where it’s at. Lay on your stomach and place your hands in front of you with your elbows directly under your shoulders.
- Keep your hips pressed into the ground and open your shoulders and chest while keeping your head in a neutral position.
- If you have a little more mobility in your back, you can choose to enter the cobra stretch by pressing into your hands and lifting your elbows off the floor.
- Remember to keep your head in a neutral position and your chest and shoulders open!
Why you need it:
Sitting for extended periods of time can create tightness in the hip flexors as well as the upper and lower back. It also constricts the abdominal organs and creates tension in the shoulders. Performing the sphinx or cobra stretch temporarily places your body in an opposing position and opens up the front of your body.
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4. Shoulder/ Chest Opener
If you sit at a computer all day this simple workplace exercise can quickly transform your posture. Here’s how to do it:
- Stand beside the outer corner of a wall or in a doorway with your arm at a 90-degree angle. Place your hand onto the wall or doorway, palm out, with your fingers pointing behind you and your thumb is up.
- Keeping the 90-degree angle in your arm, gently lean forward to create a stretch across the front of your chest, through your biceps, and in the back of your shoulder.
- Hold the stretch for 30 seconds to one minute and switch sides.
Why you need it:
Over time, typing on a keyboard can cause the muscles in your chest to contract, forcing your shoulders to round forward. Rounded shoulders can cause pain and weakness in the upper back, tightness in the chest and shoulders, and causes a postural imbalance called thoracic kyphosis (a condition commonly known as “hunchback”).
5. Figure 4 Stretch
This stretch can be completed either standing or sitting, it’s up to you. For simplicity, I’ll explain the stretch from the sitting position but the process also applies to the standing version. Here’s how to do it:
- Sit at the edge of a chair and cross your right ankle over your left knee. Your leg should resemble the number 4.
- Keep your weight evenly distributed on both butt cheeks, sit up straight creating as much space between each vertebrae as possible, and slowly lean forward without bending your back.
- As you lean forward you should feel a stretch in your right glute. At the farthest point of your stretch, shift your stretch toward the right knee for an even deeper stretch.
- Hold this stretch for 30 seconds to one minute and repeat on the other side.
Why you need it:
There’s a muscle deep in your glutes called the piriformis. This muscle is behind your gluteus maximus and runs diagonally from the lower spine to the upper surface of your femur, with the sciatic nerve running beneath it and through the muscle. Prolonged sitting can cause atrophy (muscle loss) and tightness in the piriformis and adds extra pressure to the sciatic nerve which can cause lower back pain.
6. Child’s Pose
Despite its name, this stretch isn’t only for children. In fact, this stretch is not only beneficial for improving shoulder mobility, but it’s also a calm and relaxing. Here’s how to do it:
- Start by kneeling on the ground with your knees slightly apart.
- Fold your body forward and reach your arms as far in front of you as possible. With your palms facing down and your back flat, press your chest toward the floor. You should feel the stretch in your upper back, back, and hips.
- Hold the stretch for 30 seconds to one to three minutes while taking deep breaths.
Why you need it:
Child’s pose lengthens your spine and stretches the latissimus dorsi. This muscle, also known as the lats, is the largest muscle in your back and will benefit greatly from this stretch. Similarly, this stretch helps to loosen up the hips and groin area, increase circulation and blood flow, and improve range of motion in the chest and shoulders.
7. Neck Stretch (2-ways)
Sitting at a computer can trigger a lot of tension in the neck. These stretches for sitting all day can be done quickly and easily at your computer but have a huge payoff. Here’s how to do it:
- Start by making a fist with your right hand, keeping your thumb tucked into your fist, with your head in a neutral position.
- Place your right arm behind your lower back and place your left hand over your head and onto your right temple.
- From here, use your left arm to gently tilt your head to the left creating a stretch along the right side of your neck. Remember to keep your gaze forward (do not look up).
- Hold this stretch for 30 seconds and then return your head to a neutral position.
- For the second part of this stretch, move your head ¼ turn to the left.
- Place your left hand at the top of your head from the front and gently pull your head down, guiding your forehead toward your chest. You should now feel a stretch on the back-right part of your neck.
- Hold this stretch for 30 seconds and then repeat both stretches on the other side.
Why you need it:
The sternocleidomastoid muscle is one of the largest muscles in your neck. This muscle is primarily responsible for rotating the head to the opposite side as well as flexion of the neck (looking up). Sitting for long periods of time can add tension to this muscle which can cause neck pain and restricted mobility. Similarly, excess tension of the muscles on the back of your neck, called the trapezius muscles (also known as traps) can cause tension headaches.
The Bottom Line On Workplace Exercise
Whether you’re in a classroom or work in an office, you will benefit from these stretches for people who sit all day. These simple stretching techniques can prevent, and in some cases reverse, the side effects of sitting too much!
Another way to decrease joint pain and stiffness from sitting all day is to take a daily collagen supplement, like SkinnyFit Super Youth. Type II collagen and Type X collagen are both found in Super Youth and is shown to reduce popping knees, supports back, jaw and joints, improves joint strength and elasticity, and makes up the connective tissue of organs. This is crucial for the repair and maintenance of the body. To learn more about how collagen can improve mobility and joint health, check out Collagen For Joints.
Now, don’t just sit there… get to stretching!
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