Sitting All Day? You Should Do These 5 Daily Exercises

It’s no secret: Society is becoming more and more sedentary. As technology has begun to replace the manual labor workforce, we spend more time sitting than we ever have.

This makes intentional forms of exercise more important than ever before. Simply put, we aren’t getting enough movement through our daily activities. Thus, we have to try a little harder to fit it in. Yet, you can do all of this within the comfort of your own home.

And if you’re sitting all day, we have five exercises you might want to consider adding into your daily routine. Before we dive in, let’s briefly explore the effects of sitting all day on the body and your health. What is the cost of not exercising?

What Happens if You Sit All Day?

The most obvious cost of sitting all day is the fact that the body isn’t burning as much energy as it does with movement. In fact, there are numerous studies linking sitting with obesity

As you might already know, obesity is linked to an array of health risks, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, stroke, arthritis, and more. Some experts even claim that sitting eight hours a day with no physical activity poses similar adverse health effects to smoking and obesity.

But that’s not all.

Sitting often involves maintaining the same position over many hours. This means our joints aren’t getting the lubrication and movement they need and your muscles aren’t getting used. Most likely, some of your muscles are taking on more stress than they’re used to. And this is more likely to occur when sitting with incorrect posture or with a poor ergonomic set-up.

For instance, the shoulders might become rounded, placing stress on the chest and neck muscles. Your hip flexors and hamstrings often become tight due to the natural position of sitting in a chair. There are various ways sitting for hours on end can go wrong.

So, how can you combat these adverse effects?

5 Daily Exercises to Combat Sitting All Day

While quitting your job probably isn’t an option, you can change what you do when you sign off from work for the day — or before you even start your day. Consider adding the following five exercises into your regular routine. Remember, your health matters!

1. Seated Row

This strengthening exercise targets the postural muscles in the mid and upper back. These muscles help hold your shoulders back, ensuring your upper back and neck maintain proper alignment. In fact, this is a common exercise used to help individuals with shoulder injuries and pain, correctly muscular imbalances and weaknesses.

So, how do you do it?

  • Sit in a chair with a resistance band wrapped around a stable object in front of you.
  • Hold the ends of the band in each hand.
  • Begin with your arms extended and slight tension in the band.
  • Ensuring your shoulder blades stay down and back, slowly pull the band toward your, bending your elbows and bringing them alongside your body.
  • Once your elbows pass your torso, pause, then slowly return to the start.
  • Repeat for 8-12 repetitions and 2-3 sets.

2. Squat

In many ways, the squat is the king of exercises. This exercise works your core and the major muscles in the lower body, including your glutes, hamstrings, and quadriceps — muscles that aren’t being used or activated when you’re sitting. 

This exercise can help strengthen these often weak muscles, as well as help build muscle mass in these muscle groups which can lead to burning more energy at rest (which can help prevent obesity!).

So, how do you do it?

  • Stand tall with a straight posture and your legs about hip-width apart.
  • Slowly bend your knees, tightening your core, and sticking your butt out behind you. This should look as though you’re about to sit down in a chair. However, you shouldn’t lean too far forward nor should your knees jut out past your toes.
  • Lower until your thighs are about parallel with the ground.
  • Then, slowly push back up to standing (sometimes, thinking about pushing through your heels and pulling your core tight can help you maintain the right form here).
  • Repeat for 8-12 repetitions and 2-3 sets.

3. Hamstring Stretch

The hamstrings tend to get neglected, especially if we’re spending a lot of time sitting or lounging around. When you sit, the hamstrings actually tighten. Over time, this can lead to shortened hamstrings and limited range of motion (if you can’t touch your toes, this stretch is for you!).

So, how do you do it?

  • There are actually a few ways to perform this stretch but sitting is probably the easiest. Thus, you’ll want to start sitting in a chair with a stool or another chair across from you.
  • Scoot yourself to the edge of the chair (make sure you have stability and aren’t going to fall), then straighten one leg, planting the heel on the ground.
  • Bending at the hips, slowly lean in toward your straight leg. You should feel a stretch on the back of your thighs. If you don’t, placing your heel on a stool or chair in front of you can help.
  • Hold here for 20-30 seconds, then switch legs.

4. Dead Bug

The dead bug exercise is a wonderful way to relieve lower back pain, as well as strengthen your back and core. Additionally, it can help improve balance, which isn’t something that is improved upon via sitting. This exercise can further help you maintain good posture as you sit at your desk during the day.

So, how do you do it?

  • Begin lying face-up on a comfortable surface, such as a yoga mat.
  • Bend your knees and bring them so that they are just above your hips, with your shins parallel to the floor.
  • Extend your arms straight up over top of your shoulders.
  • At the same time, straighten one leg and lower the opposite arm behind your head. Pause, then bring them back to center.
  • Repeat on the opposite side.
  • Continue to go back and forth for about 10-15 repetitions and 2-3 sets.

5. Hip Flexor Stretch

Like the hamstrings, your hip flexors don’t get much love when sitting. They, too, tend to become tight and shortened from this position, leading to reduced mobility and range of motion. By stretching these muscles regularly, you can avoid and improve upon this.

So, how do you do it?

  • Begin in a low lunge position with your back knee on the ground. If this isn’t comfortable, place a pillow underneath your knee.
  • Gently lean forward into your front knee, elongated through the front of your back hip.
  • You should feel a stretch through the front of your hip on the side where your leg is extended back.
  • Hold this stretch for 20-30 seconds, then switch sides.

Fight the Effects of Sitting Now, So You Won’t Face Pain Down the Road!

When you think of movement and nourishing your body as though you are making deposits in your bank account, everything changes. After all, your body and health is an investment, one that really has no price!

Taking care of your body and counterbalancing the negative impacts of sitting can ensure you live a long, full, and pain-free life. If you’re unsure how to get started or you’re experiencing current aches and pains, reach out to the Corydon Physiotherapy team today! Call us at 204-925-0380 to make your appointment. Together, we can get you back to feeling your best.

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Ernest Raymundo, MPT, B. Kin

Ernest graduated from the University of Manitoba with a Masters of Physical Therapy Degree in 2018 and a Bachelor of Kinesiology Degree in 2015. He's excited and keen to be part of our team. During the Physical Therapy program Ernest had the opportunity to contribute to the physiotherapy profession by taking on many leadership roles. Ernest was elected the Vice-President of the College of Rehabilitation Sciences Students’ Association in his first year of the program and President in his second year. He was also the student representative on the Manitoba Physiotherapy Association - Orthopaedic Division. As a life-long learner, Ernest plans to be certified in acupuncture by the Fall of 2020, and will be pursuing other advanced physiotherapy courses.

Ernest was inspired to become a physiotherapist after he sought physiotherapy services following a sports injury when he was 15. Now he wishes to help others return to the activities that they love, whether it is a return to sport, work, or activities of daily living.

Ernest enjoys lifting weights at the gym, biking at the park, and relaxing at the lake. He also enjoys snowboarding and skating in the winter. When he is not outdoors, Ernest can be found playing musical instruments, especially the piano, and he occasionally daydreams of his next travelling adventure.

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