22 Painless Ways to Fight the Effects of Sitting All Day

Chairs are a good thing. Without chairs, everyone would have to drive Segways. Duck-duck-goose would be impossible. And imagine trying to have dental work done while standing. Nevertheless, we now know sitting all day can shave years off your life and raise your risk of health problems like back pain, weight gain, and even depression. A 30-minute workout each day may not be good enough. Short of quitting your job and becoming a crossing guard, here are some ideas to help you ward off the ill effects of too much caboose-parking.

  1. Balance it out

    Thanks to our computer-dependent workplaces, the slouching and bad posture many of us adopt lead to muscle imbalances, which increases the risk of pain and injury. Locate weak muscles with these Men’s Journal squats and strengthen them with exercise.

  2. Pelvic clock

    Pelvic clock is another way to find muscle imbalances while decreasing the stiffness that arises from sitting all day and improving pelvic flexibility. It involves lying down face up and moving your hips and pelvis around the “clock” formed by your belly button, pubic bone, and hips.

  3. Fidget

    A study from a Mayo Clinic doctor on NEAT, or non-exercise activity thermogenesis, found that simple things like fidgeting and tapping your toes can ward off harmful side effects of sitting like proclivity to obesity and heart disease. Avoid letting your body go completely idle.

  4. Seated back stretch

    It is possible to stretch without leaving your chair. While exhaling and keeping your shoulders relaxed, fold your torso over your legs from the pelvis until your hands reach the floor and hold there for 30 seconds. Come back up on an exhale, again making the pelvis the focal point.

  5. Perfect the art of breathing

    Sitting in front of computers makes us lazy, even when it comes to breathing. We take incomplete breaths without using the diaphragm. If you take five minutes to consciously inhale slowly and deeply, then exhale rapidly and fully to expel all the CO2, you will have more energy and increase cognition.

  6. Shrug it off

    Shrugging your shoulders helps break up tension caused by sitting slumped forward all day. It’s also more of that minor but important movement you need. Keeping your muscles relaxed, slowly lift one shoulder to your ear, slowly lower it, followed by the other side, then both sides together.

  7. Back extension

    This simple exercise can be done on a break to reverse all that hunching over. Raise your arms over your head and touch your palms together, and tilt your head back slightly. Hold for up to 30 seconds.

  8. Get a good chair

    One of the most crucial elements of ergonomics is having a chair that gives you adequate lumbar support and maintains your spine’s natural S-curve. Make sure it allows you to adjust back height and depth. Believe it or not, good quality chairs can be had for under $100.

  9. Use a footrest

    To increase blood circulation while sitting, take advantage of a footrest. This also takes some pressure off your lower back, reduces fatigue, and heightens awareness. You can even get one that rocks, allowing you to get a little more movement and burn a few more calories.

  10. Knee raise crunch

    Another move you can do while sitting is called the knee raise crunch. Sitting up straight with both feet on the floor, slowly raise one foot while curling the shoulders forward. Hold there for one second before releasing and doing the other foot. Repeat up to 20 times.

  11. Rub your temples

    Sitting all day makes you fatigued and stresses your body. You can undo those effects by rubbing your temples, something you probably do instinctively when you’re stressed. It can help relieve headaches and relax you. Keep your elbows on your desk and rub in circles, slowly.

  1. Massage your neck

    Save yourself a $50 trip to the masseuse and give yourself a little massage at your desk to relax those muscles scrunched by sitting. For example, you can work out the trapezius, the big muscle that runs the length of the shoulders and up the neck and often becomes tense from sitting.

  2. Standing hip flexor stretch

    Before your hips start to complain when you sit down, try an ounce of prevention with this stretch. Place one foot on a knee-high chair, raise the opposite-side arm, and lean towards the chair keeping your back straight. Now reach to the right with your raised arm and hold. Repeat for the other side.

  3. Flip your workout

    You get enough of closing yourself up by sitting; you don’t need more of that at the gym. As pro surfer Laird Hamilton found after tearing his ACL, hanging upside down is a wonderful way to stretch your spine, take pressure off the organs, and basically counterbalance everything you do in the right-side-up world.

  4. Stretch your chest

    To combat your shoulders rounding forward while sitting, stretch out your chest muscles. You can do this by extending your arms 90 degrees from your body in a doorway and leaning forward until you feel it. Or, do the classic: clasp your hands behind your back and raise them as far as you can.

  5. Shore up your core

    If you have a weak or imbalanced group of core muscles, back pain is sure to follow. There are a number of easy core exercises you can do, like crunches, ab presses, and side planks.

  6. Inconvenience yourself

    Since everyone else is fighting for the parking spot nearest the door of your office building, you have your choice of spots at the back. This increases your walking distance and helps you move more on days when you’re mainly sitting at your desk.

  7. Sit on a fitness ball

    Your coworkers will snicker, but then again, in a world full of unhealthy practices, taking charge of your health always looks weird. Sitting on a fitness ball chair forces you to sit up straight and to constantly exert energy to maintain balance.

  8. Skip the elevator

    Aren’t you sick of waiting in line for the elevator? The average person burns seven times the number of calories by taking the stairs than by riding. Are you getting the message that you need to move yet?

  9. Eat well

    It shouldn’t be hard to see how sitting all day can increase the risk of depression. Eating a healthy diet is one way to fight it. And since we know you’re already at your computer, mix in a funny video now and then to lighten your mood.

  10. Keep your knees healthy

    Sit with knees bent to 90 degrees for long enough, and you’ll be asking, “Can you see my knee brace under these pants?” Maintaining a healthy weight, doing stretches (the right way), and exercising your hips are a few ways to keep your knees strong and pain-free.

  11. Sleep

    For a totally painless way to recover from prolonged sitting, get a full night’s sleep, seven to nine hours. If you look at the effects of sitting like any other injury, you’ll recognize that recovery is aided by sleep and prolonged by sleep deprivation.

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