Sitting is comfortable, but it comes at a cost. Whether it’s sitting at a desk, in a car, or on a couch, our lower body becomes stiffer and weaker the more time we spend in that position. This can lead to mobility problems and a higher risk of injury. Let’s look at three simple exercises you can do to compensate and stay healthy.
Loosen up your hips
One thing that’s unavoidable while sitting is tight hips. The longer you sit the tighter your hips become. This can lead to loss of the range of motion in your hip joint over time. The key is to move your hip joint through the full range of motion regularly. Get in the habit of doing the following two exercises after a long sitting session, along with your other workouts, or just throughout the day whenever you have a minute.
This is a great dynamic stretch you can use before a workout or after a long time spent sitting. It’s not always a good idea to do a static stretch if your muscles are cold. That’s where dynamic stretching comes in. It helps you warm up the muscle and at the same time gradually increase the range of motion. This one loosens up the hips, hamstrings, and glutes.
Start with forward leg swings. Hold on to something for balance. Start off swinging your right leg backwards and forwards as high and as far back as you comfortably can, gradually increasing the range of motion if possible. Do 20 repetitions on each leg. Next are side-to-side swings. Swing your right leg out to the side as high as possible and then in front of you towards your left as far as you can go. Again, do 20 swings on each leg. If you don’t feel noticeably looser, do another set.
You don’t have to do a lot of repetitions or use heavy weights to get a lot of benefits from squatting. The deep squat is a very natural and healthy movement. Especially before the advent of toilet seats, squatting was a regular part of our ancestor’s day. It gently stretches hamstrings, quads, Achilles tendons, lower back, and groin. Try to spend a few minutes a day in the deep squat position; when you get good at it you will find it a pleasurable stretch for your lower body.
Simply squat down until your butt touches your ankles. Keep your heels firmly on the ground and your back straight. Hold that position for 30-60 seconds. If you don’t have the mobility for a deep squat with your heels on the ground, or if you keep falling back when trying to achieve that position, then hold on to something with your hands. Over time you will get mobile and strong enough to achieve this position without support. Check out this video to see how it’s done.
Activate your glutes
The second most problematic thing that happens with sitting for a long time is that your glutes fall asleep and weaken. Especially if you want to exercise after a long time spent sitting, it’s great to have an exercise that activates this area. It also helps to stretch your glutes. For a stretching guide check out our previous article.
This is one of the best exercises which target glutes specifically. Just as with the previous ones, you don’t need any equipment to do it. Try to do this exercise one to two times a week – or whenever you just got out of the car after a long drive and you want to start moving well.
Lay on the ground with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Raise your waist off the ground while squeezing your glutes, until your hips are aligned with your body. Return to the starting position, and complete 20 repetitions. If you enjoy this exercise you can add weight as you get stronger. Lean on a bench with your back to get your torso a bit more upright, and hold a barbell on your hips as you raise them to form a bridge between your knees and your torso. Check out this video to learn proper technique.