We’ve all heard that sitting is the new smoking, meaning it’s not great for your health. Research has linked sitting for long periods of time with a number of health concerns, including heart disease and diabetes.
Less severely, prolonged sitting can increase pain, specifically with tight hip flexors and hamstrings. Additionally, sitting on your butt all day, not surprisingly, affects your butt and causes a condition called gluteal amnesia, also known as “dead butt syndrome.” This occurs when the glutes are weakened by sitting all day and aren’t able to properly activate, making your other muscles, like your quads, overcompensate leading to aches and pains and body misalignment.
“Sitting all day not only increases your risk of many health conditions, but can also negatively affect your posture, increase your risk of injury, and undermine your performance in workouts and everyday life,” BODi‘s star instructor, Jennifer Jacobs, tells SheKnows. “That’s because when you sit for prolonged periods, your muscles become tight and inactive.”
Fortunately, the solution is easy: move your body. Below, trainers share the must-do movements you need to add to your routine to help improve your posture, fire up those glutes, and keep your body balanced and healthy. Either incorporate these movements into your workout routine, or take a 15-minute break from the chair to move your body.
BODi‘s star instructor, Jennifer Jacobs
Single leg hip hinge
Benefits: Strengthens glutes.
How to do it: “Stand tall with your feet hip to shoulder-width apart, and your arms at your sides. Raise one foot off the floor so that you’re only standing on one leg. Keep your grounded knee in a slight bend and maintain this knee position from start to finish. Tense your thighs, glutes, and abs, and pull your shoulders down. Keeping your spine neutral, push your hip and hamstrings back and lower your torso by hinging at your hips. Your elevated leg should move with your torso. Try to lower your torso until it’s parallel to the floor without dropping your chest down lower than your grounded knee.”
Reverse the movement by driving your hips forward, and return to the starting position. That’s one rep. Perform 8-12 reps on each side.
All 4’s Single Arm Lat Pull Through
Benefits: Helps improve posture.
How to do it: In an all-fours position, shoulders stacked over wrists & hips stacked over knees, place one hand on a light to medium dumbbell with an overhand grip. From this position drive the hand back down towards your hip using the strength of the side of your back, thumb drawing close by your hip. Slowly return to start. Perform 8-12 reps on each side.
Additional tips: “The best form of exercise is one that you can be consistent with so that it becomes part of your daily routine. One of the best ways to move is to walk. Walking is free to do and easy to fit into your daily routine. Try a 10 min walk 3 x day (after each meal).”
Mindbody fitness expert Dani Schenone
“When you sit all day, you are constantly contracting your hip flexors,” says Schenone. “Because you aren’t extending them throughout the day, these muscles become shorter and weaker. It can wreak havoc on your low back, pelvis, and posture! So those muscles are a great start to focus on if you sit all day.”
Lunge with a static hold
Benefits: Extends tight hip flexors (it’s a counter posture to sitting), strengthens the hip flexors, strengthens the legs, strengthens the core (aiding in better posture overall)
How to do it: stand with your feet together. Take a large step forward with your right foot until you’re in a lunge position. Place your hands on your hips or lift them up towards the sky. Tilt the bottom of your pelvis up towards your belly button. Engage your core. Hold for 10 breaths, then switch sides. Repeat 5 times on each side. Consider pulsing your legs up and down for an added challenge.
Clasp behind the back
Benefits: Opens and extends the chest, releases tight shoulders, extends throat muscles, counteracts a hunched position which rebalances one’s posture, stretches arm muscles
How to do it: While standing, clasp your hands behind your back, and energetically pull them down your back. Squeeze your glutes and press your hips forward. If it feels okay in the back of your neck, release your gaze towards the sky. Hold for 5 breaths. Release and repeat 5 times.
Additional tips: “Set an alarm on your phone to get up every hour and a half, even if it’s just for 2-3 minutes. Take that small amount of time and stretch your body. It’s an easy habit to create and will do wonders for your wellbeing!”
bande founding instructor Amanda Jenny
“If you have to sit all day, you want to make sure you sit with good posture,” says Jenny. “A strong core will help to improve your posture and support your spine during long periods of sitting. You’ll also want to do exercises that lengthen the front of your body, especially your hip flexors!”
Benefits: “Planks are a great full-body exercise that help with core strength and pelvic orientation. When you sit all day it’s hard not to slouch. Having a strong core can improve your posture and help to support your back when you’re seated for long periods of time.”
How to do it: Bring your hands on your mat underneath your shoulders and walk your legs back to a full plank position.
Benefits: “When you’re seated your glutes can essentially turn off. Prolonged sitting puts pressure on our gluteal muscles, and also keeps them in a lengthened position. This allows the hip flexors to get tight, and the glutes to be inhibited- less likely to fire properly and work efficiently. Bridges not only strengthen your glutes but they lengthen your hip flexors.”
How to do it: Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet planted hip width apart. Press into your heels and lift your hips away from the ground. Engage your core as your hips lift up. Carefully return your hips back to the mat.
Inner Dimension TV co-founder and yoga instructor, Lauren Eckstrom
“Sitting all day is clinically proven to lead to a number of health concerns. Increases in high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, diabetes and more are now clearly linked to how much and for how long you sit each day. Not to mention the havoc of physical tension sitting all day imposes on your body leading to tight hip flexors, increased back pain, knee issues and neck pain to name a few.”
Hamstrings: Reclining Hamstring Stretch
Benefits: “Sitting tightens the posterior (or backside) of the body. The back of the body is also associated with the muscles you tighten when trying to protect yourself. So, if you’re sitting all day for work while facing chronic stress, you may be unconsciously feeding tension to the hamstrings which are almost already universally tight in most people. When the hamstrings are tight you may experience increases in low back pain and stiffness.”
How to do it: “To help alleviate this tension, lay down on your office floor (close the door, give yourself some privacy), and stick a leg up in the air. Your opposite leg can rest on the floor, extending straight or you can bend the knee and rest the sole of the foot on the floor. Wrap a belt, towel, scarf or yoga strap around the sole of the foot that’s in the air or simply hold the back of the thigh. Rest here for 2 minutes as you imagine breathing into the back of the leg and switch sides. Repeat daily.”
Hips: Reclining Pigeon
Benefits: “Hip flexors tighten which again can lead to low back pain, a lack of flexibility and can eventually lead to deterioration in mobility. As you age, the number one cause of death arises from falling so maintaining mobility and pliability is key to healthy aging.
How to do it: “To help open the hips, stay laying on the floor from the previous pose, and bend both of your knees placing your feet flat to the floor, hip distance. Cross your right ankle over your left knee. Flex your right foot. You can stay here if you feel a stretch or you can draw the left thigh into your chest. Rest here for 2 minutes. Repeat on the second side. Repeat daily.”
Benefits: “If you’re under tremendous stress while also sitting all day, you are at even greater risk for heart disease and high blood pressure. Research shows that meditation and mindfulness can help alleviate the effects of stress on the mind and body so end your sequence with some much-needed self-care.”
How to do it: “Stay reclining on your back. Bring the soles of your feet together and allow your knees to fall apart. Rest your hands on the floor or place your hands on your body. Close your eyes and take 5 slow, long deep breaths. Inhale to the count of 4, exhale to the count of 6. While also targeting the hips and placing you in a very slight back bend, this posture is literally the exact opposite shape you spend most your day sitting in. Not only will your body benefit, but so will your mind. As a result, your whole being will thank you.”
Before you go, check out some of our favorite workout recovery products to cool down and chill out after your next sweat sesh: