Chris Gabriel, OCS, CSCS
Look around you – modern society has us sitting a great deal more than our grandparents every thought was possible. Between working on the computer, texting, and driving (hopefully not at the same time!), we are on our rears nearly all day in some cases. Even for those of us who are active, a large part of our day can be spent sedentary. This has numerous health consequences from obesity, diabetes, back pain, and various other orthopedic problems.
When we spend long periods of time in the sitting position, multiple things happen:
- Muscle groups held in a shortened position can become tight – hip flexors and hamstrings are two of the most common.
- Other muscles which are held in a prolonged stretched position can become weak and inhibited- the gluteus medius and maximus are two examples.
These are the muscles that help extend and abduct our hips, and also provide stability to our low back. When these muscles shut down we have a downward spiral of function often leading to knee or low back pain.
It is essential that we get up and move around during the day, even if it is just for a few minutes at a time. Avoid sitting longer than 20 -30 minutes without getting up. Some offices provide standing work stations for employees to use periodically during the day. Setting a timer can provide a much needed reminder.
From an exercise stand point, it is helpful to develop a strategy to help loosen up the tight muscles and strengthen the weak ones. Foam rolling can be a great way to relax tightness in the hip flexors, IT Band, and hamstrings that can be a result of too much sitting. You should also try to strengthen the glutes. Exercises such as side clamshells, bridges while pressing up through the heels, and one leg Romanian deadlifts can be part of a good program to address this chronically weak, but vitally important group of muscles.
Chris Gabriel, OCS (Board Certified Orthopedic Specialist), CSCS (Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist), practices physical therapy with the OrthoCarolina Wellness Center. Chris and his team treat a range of patients for orthopedic and sports medicine needs. He enjoys working with various local high school, college, and professional sports teams.