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Life in Motion

Stand Up for Your Health: Exercises to Keep You Moving Throughout the Day

Back, Neck & Spine

The average person spends over half of his or her waking hours doing sedentary activities, from working at a computer to watching television to even commuting, according to a January 2015 article inAnnals of Internal Medicine. These long periods of sedentary behavior lead to serious health risks: weakened bones, muscle degeneration, and heart disease have been linked to excessive inactivity. To help you keep your body strong, John Turchetta, MD, a physiatrist at NEBH, offers some tips for working more activity into your daily routine. 

Your hips, glutes, and back are some of the most affected areas of your body when you sit for too long, so here are stretches you can do at work or at home to target and strengthen these parts of your body.

Hips: If you’re chronically sitting, your hip flexors lose their strength. Hip flexors help keep you balanced and mobile—in fact, decreased hip mobility in the elderly is a leading cause of falls.

Stretches:

  • Kneeling hip flexor stretch: keeping your upper body straight, step forward with one leg and bend down so that your front leg is at a 90-degree angle and your back leg is resting on the ground. Lean slightly back until you feel a stretch in your hips. Complete for both legs.
  • Butterfly stretch: sit with your knees out and the soles of your feet touching each other, as if in the “butterfly” position.
  • Lunges: keep your upper body straight while stepping forward with one leg. Lower your body until your front knee is directly above your ankle. Both of your legs should be at about a 90-degree angle to the ground, and your back leg should not touch the ground. Repeat for both legs.
  • If you want to work in a little cardio while stretching your hips, high knees are a great way to do both!

Glutes: Sitting for too long weakens your gluteal muscles, which are important muscles for balance and for powering your movements.

Stretches:

  • Hip hinge: stand with your legs hip-width apart. Bend your knees slightly, and push your hips back as far as possible until your upper body is parallel to the floor. When you stand back up, push you hips in and squeeze your glutes until you’re in an up-right position.
  • Squats: Spread your feet to hip-width, and keep your back straight as you squat until you are below parallel to the ground. The lower you squat, the more this exercise will engage your glutes.
  • If you’re looking for ways to turn glute exercises into a cardio opportunity, try taking the stairs.

Back: Constantly sitting places strain on your lower back, which can cause damage to your spinal disks.

Stretches:

  • Yoga “cat” and “cow” poses: On your hands and knees, bend your head down and arch your back up into the “cat” position; then list your head up and arch your back down into “cow.”
  • Lower back stretch: Sitting in a chair, bend one of your knees and pull it toward your chest, gently pulling your thigh towards you. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat with the other leg. 

You should try to move around for 1-3 minutes once every half hour that you’re doing a long-term sitting activity like working at the computer or watching television. In addition to these stretches, you can also increase the amount of active time during your day by getting up finding reasons to walk around (fill up your water bottle, for example!), taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or giving someone else a seat on the public transportation you use. Being active throughout the day will create long-lasting benefits that will help you leader a longer, healthier life.

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