Posted in Blog.
Your Desk Job Could Be Sabotaging Your Workout Routine – Here’s What You Can Do About It
You’ve probably heard it—sitting all day behind a desk is bad for your health. A sedentary lifestyle increases the risk for obesity, type-2 diabetes, and heart disease. Regular physical activity ranging from 30 minutes to an hour has been proven to decrease these health risks.
But is regular physical activity alone enough? A recent study has linked sitting for longer than 30 minutes at a time with a higher risk of all-cause mortality. The good news? If you move every 30 minutes, you have a lower risk of early death.
So, if you think that hitting the gym hard in the morning means a free pass to glue yourself to your office chair all day, think again. Regardless of your workout intensity, sitting for long stretches of time can predispose you for exercise injury that can keep you from the gym altogether. Why?
Sitting for long periods of time leads to tight hips that can pull our bodies into awkward, forward flexed positions. Engaging our core in daily tasks as simple as breathing becomes difficult, and over time, we can even lose the range of motion in our hips that’s needed for certain physical activities. This can lead to increased risk for certain types of injuries, like hamstring strains.
When we spend so much time during the day being sedentary, our glutes, which are meant to be the power-drivers for most high-intensity exercise, forget how to work. These key muscles in our core, hips, and glutes become neuro-inhibited, or “turned off.” Additionally, sitting reduces blood-flow to these body parts – literally squishing that booty that you’ve been working so hard to get ready for the summer!
The point is, human beings were not designed to spend 8 hours a day hunching over a computer. Those little aches and pains that you may feel after a prolonged period of sitting at your desk – that sometimes may even deter us from hitting the gym – are our brain trying to signal our body to move!
Properly engaging these muscles during exercise is key to injury prevention, but this is a difficult task if you’re not accustomed to using them for most of the day. As a result, jumping straight into a workout after sitting at work can be risky. If your hips are weak or lack mobility, your body compensates by using muscles that aren’t designed to take the impact from higher intensity exercise.
By working to loosen up our joints and strengthen the muscles that make up our core and hips — the very muscles that sitting tries to weaken—we can work towards keeping ourselves injury-free. For many of us who follow the “work hard, play hard” philosophy, finding time to take care of our bodies is even more critical. With busy work weeks and other responsibilities that cut away our free time, we know it’s easier said than done, but give your body a little extra TLC and we promise you won’t regret it. Set small goals, recruit a buddy to hold you accountable, and before you know it you’ll be on the right track to staying injury-free.
Below, find five easy tips that are easy to incorporate into your work day – designed to target the muscles and joints that prolonged sitting weakens.
- Move, move, move—as often as you can.
Yes, it’s as simple as it sounds. Taking little steps to re-engage your muscles after stints of sitting can have huge benefits. Stand up from your desk at least every 30 minutes throughout the day, whether it’s refilling your water bottle, taking a lap around the office during a phone call, or simply hovering above your chair and doing 10 squats. Schedule a walking meeting if at all possible, and invest in a standing desk!
- Stretch your hip flexors throughout the day.
If you’re planning to exercise after work, focus on keeping your hips loose throughout the day. Open up your hip flexor (located at the front of your hip where the thigh meets the pelvis) so that you’ll be better able to engage your hamstring and glutes during your workout. Try this one while standing at your desk—take a staggered stance with one foot in front, then rock your hips forwards and backwards. Make sure you feel a stretch in your hip flexor. You can also incorporate lunge matrix stretches with the help of a chair, but you can also do them at home in the morning or evening. These exercises encourage your body to move in different directions and can help increase the range of motion in your hips.
- Arm Reaches and Shoulder Squeezes
A.K.A. anti-slouch exercises. “When we spend so much time sitting at our desks with poor posture, our head creeps forward and our shoulders tense up,” Emmi says. “Those little aches and pains you may feel during the day from slouching over your keyboard are your body’s way of signaling to your brain that it’s time to move.” Relieve tension by doing 10 simple shoulder squeezes every hour at your desk. Overhead arm reaches, which you can do from your office chair, are also an easy way to incorporate more movement into your daily routine. If you’re into physical activity that relies on a repetitive overhead motion, such upper body lifting or swimming, these exercises can help protect against rotator cuff tear or shoulder impingement injuries.
- Foam Rolling
I highly recommends using a foam roller to give sore muscles a little extra love. It’s a great way to iron out all the kinks in your muscles and connective tissue after sitting at work or after hard exercise. Think of it as ‘soft tissue hygiene.’ Just like we are taught to brush our teeth every day, it’s important that we take the time to care for our joints and muscles. Proper technique is crucial—to learn how to do it right, consider taking a foam rolling class at your local gym or pilates studio. We like TriggerPoint foam rollers—find them on Amazon or at your local running store.
- Incorporate flexibility into your routine
Many yoga stretches are centered around stretching out the hips, engaging your core, and breathing properly. Pilates and barre are both great for targeting and strengthening specific muscles. “Pilates promotes better posture and a stronger core in a low-impact way, while barre can help your body reconnect with your glute muscles. If you don’t have access to a yoga studio, you can easily practice at home—there are plenty of free instructional videos online. Find a quiet spot, roll out your mat, and tune in.
For mobility and restoration classes check out THE FOUNDRY powered by Finish Line PT located in Chelsea.