Reducing The Impact Of Prolonged Sitting

Written by Gabriel Pisanu, Exercise Physiologist at Croydon Park. Article from May 2018

Reducing The Negative Impact Of Prolonged Sitting

sitting posture

Many of our clients have presented us with the typical upper crossed syndrome postural issues. This is characterised by a forward head lean, internally rotated shoulders, a rounded upper back and an excessive arch in the lower back. The most common instigator of this posture type is prolonged sitting! Unfortunately, this is a characteristic of many jobs. 

This postural problem not only looks terrible, but it can also have significant detrimental effects on your health for a number of reasons.

  • It can lead to a wide range of physical injuries due to muscular imbalances on one side of a joint compared to the other. For example, a seated posture results in a prolonged period of hip flexion – where the angle of your thigh relative to your pelvis is decreased. This means the muscles that flex your hips are constantly shortened and your hip extensors (mainly glutes) are lengthened.
  • This particular imbalance leads to anterior pelvic tilt which is presented with an excessive arch in your lower back. As a result, there is an increased level of sheer force in your lumbar spine which can lead to disc degeneration and osteoarthritis. This is only one example – there are many more. Of course, the more hours you are sitting, the less active hours you are accumulating during the day which increases your risk of developing metabolic and cardiovascular conditions.

As a result, we’ve come up with some stretches to reduce the impact of a seated posture on your body! 

Stretch 1

This stretch aims to lengthen the muscles that are constantly active when your head is tilting forward to look at a computer screen. Simply place one arm behind your back and use your other arm to gently pull your head to the side. Try to depress the shoulder of which the arm is behind the back for an extra stretch. You should feel this through the side of your neck. Hold for 30 seconds, then change the angle of your head to be looking at your opposite foot relative to the arm behind your back. You should feel this towards the back of your neck. Hold this new position for 30 seconds and repeat on the other side.

Stretch 2

This stretch aims to lengthen the hip flexor muscle group – those that are constantly short when sitting. Use a towel or pillow and place it under your knee for support. Take an exaggerated step forward while keeping your torso upright. Drive forward with your hips and squeeze the glute of your back leg to posteriorly tilt the pelvis (as mentioned earlier, tight hip flexors cause anterior pelvic tilt). You should feel this at the top part of your thigh – close to where your thigh meets your hip. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat on the opposite leg.

Stretch 3

This stretch aims to stretch the chest and front shoulder muscles. When these muscles are tight, they are what cause internally rotated or forward shoulders. When your arms come forward to type at a computer, these muscles contract and shorten to produce that movement. To perform this stretch, stand in a doorway with your forearms in contact with the wall. Take a step forward with one leg and maintain a tall posture. Lean into this stretch with your chest up and you should feel this in your chest and front shoulder region. Hold for 30 seconds.

A great way to implement this into your daily work routine is to spend 3-5 minutes performing them every seated hour near your desk. The more you do them, the greater reduction in risk of postural complications.

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