Exercises for frequent sitters
Not only since the beginning of the pandemic has a large part of the population spent at least eight hours a day sitting. By working in a home office, some people sit with even fewer interruptions than in the office, as there are no trips to the printer, the next colleague or the coffee kitchen. The result: maximum inactivity and one-sided physical strain.
In our interview series, sports scientist and personal trainer Markus Bremen explains the problems and symptoms of the “new smoking”, as sitting is often described by health experts, and gives a few practical exercise tips. By the way, at the end of this article you will find the detailed video recording of the interview (German only) .
Integrate these short mobilisation breaks into your daily sitting routine to prevent back pain and muscular imbalances.
What are the effects of long and uninterrupted sitting?
The hip flexor (iliopsoas muscle) in the front of the torso shortens. As a result, our upper body tilts forward and the thoracic spine also kyphoses; a hunchback is formed. You have probably noticed this effect on yourself when sitting. The shoulders drop forward. To compensate, the cervical spine straightens in the opposite direction to ensure an upright head position. This results in a so-called vulture’s neck.
How do you counteract these physical effects of sitting?
Ideally, you should interrupt your usual working sitting position every 20 minutes. You can also do this sitting down, but it is even better to stand up. Then you should stretch your thoracic spine. This is achieved by stretching the chest muscles. To do this, bring your arms up behind you or clasp your hands behind your back with your arms stretched out. Another good exercise for mobilisation is “cat-cow”. Here you alternate between a round and hollow back several times. Finally, perform a few controlled movements in the cervical spine (rotation) to break up the monotonous staring straight ahead.
Stretch the hip flexor by lunging, lowering the back leg towards the floor and keeping the knee in contact with the floor. The arms are stretched upwards, your gluteal muscles are activated and your hips are pushed forward. A lateral stretch away from the side to be stretched intensifies the stretch of the hip flexor.
Our gluteus maximus is the largest muscle and one of the strongest. It is largely responsible for enabling our species to walk upright. It is not used when sitting. The buttocks forget their function; this is called “gluteal amnesia”. It is therefore particularly important to challenge it, for example, with squats or lunges. When sitting, you can at least counteract this amnesia a little by tensing your buttocks.
All these movements can be integrated into everyday office life without breaking a sweat.
Here is the expert interview with Markus as a video – right from the beginning of the part on the topic of “Practical tips for frequent sitters” (sorry, German only).
Learn more about Markus here: www.move-better.de