Pilates at home -The negative impacts of sitting!
Check out our Online Pilates page for heaps of content which you can do completely free of charge!
After a long day of sitting in the office, it is so nice to come home and relax with some more sitting on the couch, isn’t it? Sitting doesn’t take much effort, so it makes it a great choice for when we are tired and lacking energy… right?
Though it may feel like your body is tried and needs to relax, what it actually needs is a nice gentle amount of movement. Particularly we need to move our bodies in directions that we don’t do in our every day lives. For example our spine needs all 4 movement directions, flexion, extension, side flexion and rotation. But even more importantly our hips need abduction, adduction, and extension! Flexion of this hips is already covered by all that time you spent sitting. The best way to get all of these movements is in a guided Pilates class which can be done at home!
Like this one we recently created – Pilates at home for covid 19 – 35 minute stress relief!
The facts about sitting
Actually, leading a sedentary lifestyle is killing us, literally. Recent Australian research has shown that for any adult, inactivity reduces your lifespan. The constant sitting during the day slows down our metabolism to about one third of the calories we would use if we were moving. This is making us more likely to become obese. What’s more sitting is increasing the likelihood of both heart disease and diabetes. Most of us spend more than 9 hours or half of our day in a seated position. Did you know that office workers can spend up to 80% of their day glued to their seats!
A recent New Zealand herald article delves deeper into this topic here.
Why does my body feel so tight after sitting?
Tightness in the body can be a result of many different things like physical labour, heavy lifting, exercise and over exerting yourself. Those are the obvious ones. We all know what it feels like to having aching muscles from doing something out of the ordinary right? But did you realise that inactivity also leads to tightness?
Whenever your muscles sit dormant, in a contracted position the muscle fibres are being shortened. Do you know that feeling when you first stand up after sitting for hours and it feels like you are cracking open stiff dried sheets? That’s the feeling of your muscle fibres finally elongating back to their neutral position. If we spend too much time in this contracted position, the muscle fibres begin to recognise this a “neutral”. Meaning that their actual neutral, now feels like extension!
Which muscles are affected?
The main muscle that gets tight when seated is called your iliopsoas. Commonly referred to as the psoas muscle.
This is the largest of your hip flexors and runs on a diagonal line through your body. It starts at your lesser trochanter which is the inner edge of your thigh bone to put it colloquially. It then runs through the inner edge of your sticky outy hip bones (ASIS). Then through your pelvis and lower back to attaches to the last five vertebrae of your lumbar spine.
So why does my lower back hurt too?
Since this muscle is attached to your spine, when it’s contracted and shortened it pulls your lower back forward into more of an arch or lordosis. This is when your back muscles start to be affected as they are being shortened by your tight hip flexors too. Constantly being pulled into lordosis or an arched back means your lower back muscles become tight, shortened and contracted also.
What other hip flexor muscles are there?
The iliopsoas is not the only hip flexor muscle which can be affected. You also have rectus femoris, tensor fasciae latae and sartorius.
The second muscle I mentioned, TFL for short, lives exactly where your hand would sit in your front jean pocket. These muscle fibers turn into the beginning of your iliotibial band, which then connects all the way down to your knee. When this muscle gets tight it can start to wreak havoc with your knee alignment and tracking, causing all sorts of injuries.
Read on to learn more about tight hips and what you can do to relax these muscles.
The similarities between sitting and smoking
Sitting for long periods throughout your day is now being labelled as a serious health risk, similar to smoking. Except, I don’t believe they are similar at all. Now don’t get me wrong, I do not condone smoking at all. It does horrific things to the body; cancer being one of the worst. However, when we look at a smoker’s routine there are certain aspects of it that we could learn from.
A smokers routine
A smoker will usually take several short breaks throughout the day. Depending on where the nearest smoker’s area is, they will have to walk 5-10 minutes and these days it has to be outside. As a result of limited smoke friendly areas, smokers can also usually be found flocking together which results in social interaction. So if we were to minus the inhalation of deadly chemicals from this situation, a smoker would be; reducing the amount of time spent sitting, getting daily exercise from walking and they would be increasing their serotonin and oxytocin levels in the brain by hanging out with others outside.
Checkout this article for a fascinating look at the relationship between serotonin and oxytocin.
The smokers break model
Smoking is slowly being eliminated from modern society, which in my opinion is for the better. However, let’s try to consider how we could use the ‘smokers break model’ as a way to encourage movement and socialisation while pausing from the rush of everyday life.
So how do I loosen my hips?
Glad you finally asked! 😉 With a guided Pilates at home workout routine! The best way to make this new habit is to attach it to an old habit. Maybe you would normally get home, make dinner, eat dinner, put the kids to bed or sort the animals out and then settle down for the night by the TV.
Pilates at home habits!
One idea to build your new Pilates at home habit, is to stretch in the ad breaks. No ads beacuse of netflix? Then just drop down on the floor and stretch out those hip flexors whilst you’re watching!
Smart TV anyone? Why not stream our Pilates at home for beginners series right from youtube on your smart tv?
Another idea I have is to stretch just before bed, but after brushing your teeth. Attach the habit of stretching to the habit of brushing your teeth, you just can’t go to sleep without doing both!
Or you could consider taking ‘Pilates breaks’ throughout the day, here are a couple of our favourite office friendly exercises to get you started.
Hip Flexor stretch
Aim: To stretch and release tightness in your hip flexors from working in a seated position.
Tip: There are lots of different ways to stretch your hip flexors. You need to find the version that works best for your body!
Check out our Pilates at home – how to stretch your hip flexors video below!
Circle your neck, shoulders, ankles, and wrists often
Aim: To maintain mobility and encourage circulation.
Tip: You can easily do this when you are reading emails which don’t require your hands to be doing anything.
Rise up onto your toes and stretch arms above your head
Aim: To stretch out your whole spine, energising and revitalising your body.
Tip: You could make a game with a colleague who sits near by, to try and always stretch at the same time as one another, if you see the other person stretching, you have to jump up as quick as you can too. Now to practice balance, try to do it with your eyes closed and see how long you last!
Roll down into a downward dog
Aim: To mobilise and articulate the spine as well as send oxygenated blood to the head.
Tip: To turn this one into a routine, try out the video below and see how much of it you can memorise.