Are you seeing any trends in certain types of injuries?
The flat feet, the kneecap pain, and the weak hips — I see those across the entire spectrum of ages and sports.
Sitting doesn’t just affect the bones and muscles. It affects metabolism as well, and as we gain weight, it’s more pressure and increased force that go through the joints and can cause more injury.
You also see decreased blood flow. People end up with more varicose veins. Even blood flow to the brain gets a little dampened and you get “foggy brain,” where you’re a little slower just because your blood isn’t moving as smoothly as it should.
I also see plenty of e-athletes who play video games for sport. This population has a unique challenge in that they’re encouraged to sit and play video games all day as part of their training. So when I counsel them on the importance of standing, stretching, and moving, I’m met with incredulous looks and disbelief.
Are there specific exercises you recommend?
My team and I recommend core exercises for hip stabilization and strengthening. There are two exercises that I’m a big fan of: One is the “clamshell,” where you lie on your side with your knees bent and you have a stretchy band around your knees and you’re opening one leg and slowly closing it. The second one is the “bird dog,” where you’re on all fours and you lift one leg straight out behind you and the opposite arm straight out in front of you. These are excellent for hip strengthening. There are others, too, like the abductor machine in the gym, where you’re sitting and you press the panels out on the sides with your knees.
Is there a recommended amount of movement to counteract the effects of sitting?
Yes, absolutely. It’s recommended that we get about 20 minutes of exercise a day, seven days a week, or 30 minutes on five days. Whether it’s walking or jogging, continuous or split up, the act of moving in itself is enough to counteract the effects of sitting. Building up muscle strength is also helpful.
We can’t get away from sitting. We have to be at our computers doing work. So any exercise is better than none at all. Whether it’s standing desks, treadmill desks, or frequent breaks, we all have the challenge of finding our own life hacks to getting exercise in where we can to stay strong and live healthy lives.