Two Simple Stretches To Counter The Effects Of Chronic Sitting

Relax with these movements you can do at home or the office with minimal equipment

Photo by Allec Gomes on Unsplash

Sitting is the new smoking, I’m not the first to say it, nor will I be the last, but that doesn’t detract from the truth of the statement. There is ample evidence that sitting for extended periods leads to all sorts of negative outcomes such as negating the effects of your workouts, weight gain, lower back pain, and weakness to name just a few. Here I’ll show you two stretches that can ameliorate some of the negatives that come with sitting too much for too long.

Foam Roller Chest Opener

Sitting at a desk in front of a computer all day is usually accompanied by a slouching posture, which rounds the shoulders forward and causes the pectoral muscles (the big muscles in your chest) to become shorter. It does the same to your anterior deltoids (shoulder muscles). Eventually, this will have a deleterious effect on your posture as well as pain and stiffness in your upper back and neck. This stretch is a great way to lengthen the muscles of the chest and shoulder.

Take Deep Breaths As You Enjoy The Stretch

To perform, grab a foam roller and sit on the very edge then slowly lie back so the back and back of your head are fully supported by the foam. Raise your arms as if you’re trying to grab something off the ceiling then slowly allow them to fall out to the side like the picture above. To adjust the intensity of the stretch, move your arms down towards your side to decrease the pull. To increase the pull, slide your arms up. Remember, you should not feel pain, but a gentle yet noticeable sensation in your chest and the front of your shoulders. Don’t have a foam roller? Use a rolled-up beach towel or blanket. You should consider getting a foam roller anyway since they are inexpensive and have many uses besides this awesome stretch.

This is a wonderful stretch to do after any sort of upper body workout as well, especially if you've done any pressing movements like a bench press, dips, or push-ups. Lying down also has the added effect of helping to lower your heart rate, which aids in the cooling down process. Hold this for at least 30 seconds, but it feels so good you’ll want to hold it longer, which is just fine. I have all my clients do this at the end of their training sessions and they universally agree it’s their favorite part of the workout.

Lying L Stretch

Your sitting habit also causes weakness and stiffness of the muscles in the lower back.

Getting into the proper position can be a bit tricky. First, find a sturdy wall that doesn’t mind the sudden presence of your legs upon it. Sit down facing the wall roll to your right side and extend your legs so you’re in the ‘L’ position. Roll to your left and onto your back while simultaneously lifting your legs so you come into the position seen above. In the picture, my legs and butt are flush against the wall, which will provide the most intense stretch. If you’ve never done this before I strongly recommend starting with your butt and hips about a foot back from the wall so you don’t hurt yourself. The close you move to the wall, the more intense the stretch will become. Again, hold for at least 30 seconds but you can spend several minutes here and feel your lower back gradually relaxing the longer you hold it.

Not only are these great to do after a workout, but they also make a great addition to your nighttime routine as you prepare for bed. A few minutes holding each position with some deep breathing will get your body primed for sleep. While these are not a cure-all for chronic sitting, they are a tool you can use in the battle against the desk chair.