5 Exercises To Counteract Sitting all Day - Iron Health Physical Therapy & Cryotherapy
Joseph Rendina

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5 Exercises To Counteract Sitting all Day

With the millennial advancement in lifestyle, we are moving towards sedentary life. It includes sitting all day in front of a screen. Whether working on a laptop, watching a tv show or sitting behind the wheel driving all day. All of these activities require sitting, and when you round it up, it turns out you are sitting for 8 to 11 hours per day or more.

Sitting all day affects your nervous, systemic and musculoskeletal system. It also affects you psychologically and holistically. You might think that you are working all day. How can you say I am not active? Well, you are completing the usual work stuff, but your body needs to be physically active. 

When you sit for long hours, your body's physiology changes as it adapts to the lifestyle you are focussing on. You are what lifestyle changes you make, whether good or bad. 

Why is sitting all day bad for you?

Sitting all day bundles up systemic, mechanical and musculoskeletal disorders. Even if you are reading a book, watching TV, driving or working, any activity that involves extended sitting brings up functional disorders that could have been prevented otherwise. 

Musculoskeletal disorder

Not many offices have ergonomically designed chairs and desks for employers. Or car seats are comfortable enough to sit all day and drive. Sitting on poorly designed seats and chairs causes many mechanical and musculoskeletal disorders.

Sitting all day can trigger several disorders, including;

  • Sciatica

  • Nerve impingement

  • Inflammation of piriformis muscles

  • Diffuse low back pain

  • Stiff back muscles

  • Lumbar back straightening

  • Shoulder muscle tightness

  • Carpal tunnel syndrome 

  • De Quervain syndrome

  • Forward neck posture

  • Hump in back

  • Reduced intervertebral joint space

In addition, prolonged sitting can also lead to arthritis and joint pain. Our joints get nutrition from the blood supply. When we are seated, not much blood flows through the joint like the knee joint. It gets low nutrition and starts to degenerate early.

Unhealthy weight gain

We are experiencing the effects of a millennial sedentary lifestyle. Sitting all day in a chair increases the risk of obesity. There's some gut-brain relationship where you want to binge eat while sitting. It causes unhealthy weight gain because most of the food we consume is junk and processed food. 

Increased risk of diabetes

When you are sitting, you are in a relaxed state, your mind could be anxious due to the ongoing workload, but your body is relaxed. Mainly the large muscles are more comfortable in general. Because of reduced mobility, they do not reduce the uptake of glucose. The residual glucose is not utilized, which causes a lot of free glucose in the blood. This vicious mechanism raises the risk of early diabetes in sedentary individuals.

Cardiovascular issues

Sitting all day for years reduces the workload capacity of your heart. Because overtime reduced mobility caused your body to demand low heat capacity. When you try to jump from your comfort zone, it's a bit tough for your heart to compensate for the increased body demand according to the activity level. It may cause cardiovascular and pulmonary issues as early as the third decade of your life.

Psychogenic issues

The thinking speed of our mind is lightning fast. We can contemplate thousands of thoughts in one sec. This is at times harmful for your mind, soul and body. 

Overthinking leads to anxiety, depression and tension. You think of dire consequences to a situation. Anxiety and depression also cause bowel irritability, constipation, decreased or increased appetite. 

Prolonging sitting in one place also disrupts the sleep-wake cycle and normal body circadian rhythm, leading to insomnia and cluster headaches.

How do I counteract sitting all day?

Our body is designed in a way to keep moving. After a tiring day at work, of course, you don't want to move a bit, and there's no way you would exercise. But that's okay! You can do 5 simple exercises during work to counteract sitting all day. 

Sit and Stand 

This is a simple exercise that engages your core and trunk.

  • Get up from your chair and do a regular sit and stand position. 

  • Cross arms on your chest

  • Repeat it 5 times. 

  • You can also combine it with side bending. 

  • Move your trunk laterally on each side.

  • The stretch will be felt on the opposite side of bending

  • Repeat that 5 times also. 

Pigeon tucks/ Chin tucks

Chin tucks a really simple exercise that can be done while working. This exercise is perfect for forwarding neck posture and rounded shoulders.

  • Sit in a neutral position.

  • your back should be anatomically straight

  • The neck should be in the midline with the shoulder

  • Move your chin inward and outward.

  • Your head should be moving, but your neck should be in a stable position.

Shoulder "W" s

Working long hours while typing or driving makes your traps tight and stiff. People report muscle knots and taut bands in the trapezius muscle.

  • Sit in a neutral position on the chair. (can also be performed in standing position)

  • Your back should be in a natural curve

  • Raise your elbows, and the hands should be at the level of your ears

  • Extend your back and shoulder blades backwards

  • Hold it on for 5 seconds

  • Repeat it 10 times. 

Hip Stretch

Sitting all day for long hours causes hip flexors to shorten over time. The change is unnoticeable, but it causes stooped posture as your muscles are trying to compensate. This is an excellent seated exercise to stretch hip flexors just by sitting on your chair. 

  • Take a chair

  • Put your leg on a chair.

  • The knee should be on the seat pan

  • Put both of your hands on waist

  • Flex with standing leg

  • Repeat 5 times

Alternate way

  • Sit on the edge of the seat

  • Turn to one side with your glute off the table

  • Grab your ankle and flex your knee

  • Pull it backwards towards your buttocks. 

  • Repeat it 5 times

Bruegger's exercise

This is a short exercise and can be combined with sitting and standing. It can ease the stiffness in your upper back, traps and neck. 

  • Stand up from your chair

  • Stretch your arms and hands wide open

  • Pull both arms behind your back

  • You'll feel stretch on the medial side of your forearm

Summing up

Sitting all day is a significant part of our lives, whether at home or work. At times prolonged sitting causes a lot of systemic and mechanical disorders in the body. By the end of the day, you don't have much energy and time to exercise.

You can incorporate easy to do exercises in your daily life that you can perform during work. These exercises are simple to remember and don't require much time. You can perform exercise 2 or 3 times a day. Walk a few steps into the office and get up every 20 minutes. Simple changes in daily routine can help you prevent long term disorders. 

Joseph Rendina PT, DPT, OCS

Joseph Rendina PT, DPT, OCS

Doctor of Physical Therapy, Board-Certified Orthopedic Specialist
Joseph received his Doctorate in Physical Therapy from New York Medical College and is also recognized as a Board-Certified Orthopedic Specialist. As a former competitive athlete and weightlifter, Joseph understands the specific needs and demands of the human body. Joseph’s goal is to maintain an active approach to rehab while facilitating recovery.
Joseph Rendina PT, DPT, OCS

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