After a long week of work, countless errands and running around, the weekends may be your opportunity for leisure to do nothing but sit around all day. While there’s nothing wrong with taking well deserved time off to relax, you may be doing more of a disservice than you realize. The human body is designed for movement and as the saying goes, “sitting is the new smoking.” According to research at Cornell University Department of Ergonomics, sitting increases the pressure on your lower back by 90 percent compared to standing. It’s no wonder back pain is one of the most common health problems in today’s society. On the days that are meant for relaxing, you may want to reconsider how you spend your free time and consider these precautions to make sure you’re treating your body with the best care possible.
Go for a walk
All you need is 30 minutes a day. To make it more enjoyable, make it a family activity by going together for a walk around the neighborhood or at the local park. If you have dogs you can choose to take them along as well, instead of just playing with them inside. If you live in a cold-weather climate, many indoor malls open early for walkers.
Set the intention to get more steps in. Park the car in the back of the parking lot, get off the bus one or two stops early or use phone calls as an opportunity to stand up and move around.
There are numerous benefits to walking daily. Not only will this simple movement strengthen the muscles in your legs, but it will improve the blood flow throughout your body. Walking modifies your nervous system and boosts your mood, making you feel happier and more creative.
Stand up every 30 to 60 minutes
Unfortunately, you cannot offset hours of sitting with one hour of exercise. According to research at Start Standing, “marathon sitting” drastically changes your body's metabolism. Your metabolism slows down by 90 percent after only 30 minutes of sitting. The enzymes that aid in fat burning slow down. The muscles in your lower body turn off. And after two hours of sitting, your good cholesterol reduces by 20 percent.
Fortunately, it’s as simple as standing up, stretching and walking around for as little as five minutes for your body’s metabolism to pick back up again.
Stretch out your hips and back
Prolonged sitting, especially with poor posture, causes your muscles to shorten, which is why they feel tight. You might experience shoulder pain, hip pain and even back pain. The deepest hip flexor, the Psoas, is directly connected to our lumbar (lower) spine. When you’re sitting, your hip flexors shorten, causing your glute muscles to elongate. This can cause a tight or pulling sensation in your back.
Negate these pains by stretching out your muscles. To get you started, ATI Physical Therapy’s Rehabilitation expert Briana Jamshidi shares with us a few recommended stretches and suggestions.
Prioritize drinking enough water
Proper hydration and nutrient-dense meals are essential for a well-functioning body. Your body is up to 70 percent water and if you’re dehydrated, many functions of your body stop working as a result. Areas of the body that are not important for survival become deprived of water in order to supply the brain and other vital organs. As an example, cartilage is not considered a vital organ, so the body will pull water from it, dehydrating it. When the water content of cartilage drops, it loses its smooth, low-friction and wear resistant qualities, allowing it to become damaged.
It’s recommended to drink half your body weight in ounces of water per day (body weight: 140 pounds, water intake: 70 ounces). Carrying a water bottle around with you helps makes sure you drink enough water each day. Proper hydration can result in more health benefits, such as improved skin complexion, increased energy, headache prevention and improved digestion.
Are aches and pains getting in the way of your daily activities?
If simple home interventions are not helping to lessen aches, pains and discomfort, it’s time to see a physical therapist.