Sitting is the new smoking. Or so the proverbial “they” are saying. The truth is that extended periods of sitting are bad for your health, especially in the long-term.
One very simple way to offset the damage is to incorporate a moment of stretching into your routine.
According to several of the sources I found (listed at the bottom), not to mention my own anecdotal experience, sitting can increase your chances of:
- blood clots
- neurological pinching or damage
- shortened leg muscles
- high blood pressure
- poor digestion
- leg cramps
- shallow breathing (lower oxygen levels)
- lower back pain
- tight muscles in the hips
- and more.
- Start today. If you’re young, great! If you’re not so young anymore, even better! It’s never too soon or too late to get in touch with your body and stretch.
- Make it a habit. Stretch every time you go to the bathroom. Stretch on the toilet even. That’s a place you visit regularly, and your body is great at reminding you. If you still forget, add a little reminder to yourself on a sticky over the toilet-paper dispenser.
- Think of it as a gift to yourself. If you take regular stretch breaks, you’ll sit comfortably longer, focus better, write more, and stress less.
- Really listen to your body. Your body will tell you what areas you need to stretch. Sore shoulder? Sore wrists? Hip seizing? Ankles swollen? Your body is talking to you. Pain is a cry for help.
- Do what feels good! Do the stretches that work for your body. Those are the ones you need. This isn’t a competition. Over time, you’ll notice you feel more flexible. The effects are cumulative.
- Don’t overdo it. Sixty seconds of stretching, done several times a day, will produce noticeable results after just a few days.
- Relax. Stretching doesn’t have to involve force. Just bend, reach, and let your own body weight do the work.
- Get your head lower than your heart. If you can, bend at the waist and reach for your toes, do downward-facing dog (a yoga pose), or lie on the bed with your head hanging off the edge. When you’re sitting, blood has an uphill battle to get to your head with the vital oxygen it’s carrying.
- Get your heart lower than your legs. If you can, lie on your back with your feet up on the wall or on the arm of the couch. While you were sitting, all that blood that was having such a hard time getting to your head was pooling in your feet and legs. This pose will help release it and get it flowing more freely.
- Try yoga. If you’re interested, I recommend Yoga with Adrienne on Youtube. Adrienne has short (15-30 minute), easy yoga routines for all body types and proficiency levels. If the word “yoga” scares you, don’t let it. This yoga is literally for everyone!
- Healthline.com: “Breathe Deeper to Improve Health and Posture”
- Health.Harvard.edu: “The Importance of Stretching”
- StretchRelief.com: “Is Stretching Good for Mental Health?”
- Healthline.com: “Stretches for the Wrists and Hands”
- MedLinePlus.gov: “Heath Risks of an Inactive Lifestyle”
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