Is Sitting Down All Day Bad For You? 5 Exercises From A Yoga Teacher That'll Undo The Damage
While I've had lots of of jobs that kept me on my feet all day, in recent years, most of my work is done in front of a computer, sitting down. Since lots of people spend their days like this, the question has arisen more than once: Is sitting down all day bad for you? And if so, is there any way to combat all the sitting we do?
Some people say "sitting is the new smoking," and other research seems to suggest it isn't quite as deadly as we think. Either way, I definitely notice that my butt, hamstrings, and lower back all tend to feel weaker, pretty crunched up, and heck, sometimes numb, whenever I spend hours upon hours sitting on my booty.
Luckily, Elite Daily had the opportunity to speak with Heather Peterson, chief yoga officer at CorePower Yoga, which is based in Denver, Colorado but has studios all over the U.S. She shares some really great exercises that help to undo all the damage and weakening that can happen to our bodies while we're hanging out in our chairs all day long, trying to bring home the bacon.
Sitting for long periods of time (as we all do during a regular work day) lengthens and weakens the muscles on the back of our body. At the same time, the front and center of our body (the classic core muscles) turn off and create a short and weak pattern.
These exercises target all those areas to create strength, and reverse those patterns that often result in low back pain or strain.
Yes, some of these workouts will be challenging, and they may or may not have had me screaming "Why?!" when I tried them myself. But if you have an interest in keeping your body strong and supple in the face of desk time, I highly suggest giving them a shot.
FYI: Two yoga blocks will be super helpful to have with you for a couple of these exercises.
1. Eagle Crunches
These are hard, but they definitely strengthen that tum-tum — specifically the front of your abdomen and the inner thighs.
Lie down on your back, and draw your right arm under your left, allowing your palms to touch. Draw your right leg up and over your left leg, and tuck your right foot behind your left calf.
Maintain the natural curve of you lumbar spine, and keep the shoulders relaxed. On your inhale, open your elbows away from your knee, and on the exhale, crunch your elbows to your knees. Repeat for 20 reps and switch sides. Be sure to anchor your lower back to the mat, and soften your shoulders away from your ears.
To make it less intense, just cross your arms as if you're giving yourself a big hug, then cross the upper legs without the double cross at the lower legs.
2. Sphinx Roll-Up To Forearm Plank
Peterson tells Elite Daily that this move builds 360-degree awareness of your core walls and pelvic floor muscles. It's also a great way to activate an awareness for sitting with a toned core while performing other tasks, like, say, coding or writing emails.
As mentioned earlier, you'll need a yoga block for this bad boy. Place that block between your thighs, and lie belly-down with your elbows under your shoulders, forearms pressed into the mat, palms down, and your inner wrists rooted into the floor. Draw your lower belly up, and broaden your collar bone by squeezing your shoulder blades together on your back. Tuck your toes under and roll up, with your ribs, belly, hip points, and thighs coming off the mat.
You can stay with your knees down as an alternative if that feels best for you. Squeeze the yoga block block between your thighs, and draw your shoulder blades down your back. Bring your hips in one line from your shoulders to your heels. Increase your holds from three to 10 breaths, then roll back down and “rest” in sphinx position. After two to three sets, take a breather by stacking your forearms to make a pillow for your head and rock your hips side to side.
This one really helps keep to avoid pulled or strained muscles in the lower back.
3. Cobra-Locust Reverse Crunches
Peterson tells Elite Daily that this “back” core work targets the entire back line of the body, meaning it balances the weakening and lengthening that can happen while sitting for long periods.
While toning and strengthening the back body can at first be super challenging, you'll feel the difference after a bit of practice.
Lie belly-down and place your hands behind your head with your elbows wide as if you were doing a regular crunch. Bring your inner thighs and heels together — think of "zipping" the legs together.
Exhale as you lift your head, chest and legs coming up off the floor.
Stay elevated for a full breath cycle, and then release to the floor. Repeat for four to eight reps to build up strength in your lower back, glutes, and hamstrings. Fully rest by stacking your forearms as a pillow for your head and rock your hips side to side.
4. Low Boat Crossover Kick
Start in a seated position for this one.
Bend your knees and bring your hands behind your knees to lift your chest and draw your shoulder blades together. Lift one foot then the other until your shins are parallel with the floor, and slowly extend your legs straight out in front of you until they hover a few inches off the floor. Draw your hands together at the center of your chest. Maintain a lift in your chest, and hold your upper body still as you alternate the cross of one ankle over the other. Repeat the alternate crossover.
Since this movement works the front of your core and your hip flexors — and you're working your inner thighs during the crossover — you're strengthening muscles that often collapse or go unused when you're hangin' tight in a chair at work.
I'm not totally able to do this one yet, but I'll be damned if I stop trying.
Sit with a straight spine and your legs extended straight out in front of you. Put two yoga blocks to the sides of your hips, laying flat to the floor. Cross your legs in a natural position, and press your hands down into the blocks to lift your hips off the ground, eventually moving your hips and both feet entirely off the ground.
Pull your hips back and up to achieve lift-off. Build up to staying elevated for one to three breaths, then lower down to the floor. Repeat four to six times.
This movement works deep pelvic floor muscles and helps in connecting to your core, so you can pop it into action when it really counts, like lifting groceries or getting a huge snack delivery at the office.