We’re all very aware of how sitting for long periods of time is harmful to our posture – especially when it comes to the upper body. Imagine yourself sitting at your desk/on the sofa/on your bed – wherever you’re working from – after an hour…
You can see yourself hunched over, neck craned out and shoulders up by your ears. But, what about your hips and glutes? They’ve been taking your weight for hours with no rest. What exactly is happening there while you’ve been working?
THE IMPACTS: STIFF HIPS AND WEAK GLUTES
Prolonged durations of sitting, especially in a way that is not immediately natural or comfortable for the body can lead to a myriad of issues, creating long term discomfort and strain (Source 1).
These periods of sitting in an office chair, even for just an hour, can contribute to a lack of pelvic stability and developing a posterior pelvic tilt (Source 2) – to understand what this looks like, stand with your hips pushed far forward and your bum tucked under you – this is not the most comfortable or natural way for your body to be. This impacts your posture and daily comfort so, when sitting, be conscious of how you’re resting on your pelvis, is it pushed back or tucked under you?
Sitting also contributes to muscle imbalances and weakness. Due to lack of activation, you could develop weak glutes and, possibly, even flattened glutes. So, getting up and taking a walk every hour, at the least, will keep your glutes strong and support your legs.
If you’re a runner or used to leg heavy exercise, but find yourself struggling, you may be experiencing hip strain. This is because, when seated in a chair, your hip flexors are constantly in a shortened position. So, if you have to stop your run mid-way due to tight hips, this could be a huge contributing factor – which is why we must lengthen our hip flexors – essentially opening up the muscles, which not only helps relieve pain but increases your flexibility and stride.
And, if you’re already a person who is struggling with their weight, have arthritis, osteoporosis or similar issues and pre-existing conditions related to joint or muscle weakness, becoming more active and taking time to stretch your body, particularly the glutes and hips, will help you not only make physical progress, but can help you feel more connected with your body, more relaxed and make everyday tasks easier.
Not sure where to start? Apart from our amazing virtual classes, below are a few stretches that can help you make a difference in your hips and glutes.
FOUR KEY STRETCHES
Supine Glute Stretch
Laying on your back, bring your left ankle so it is resting on top of your thigh behind your knee. Then, tuck your leg into your chest by bringing your thigh closer into you with your arms. For an even tighter stretch, instead of having your ankle over your knee, have your other knee over your knee and, holding your shins, tuck your legs into your chest. Do the same on the other side.
Begin on your front, starting from high plank position, and tuck your left leg under you, while your right leg remains straight behind you, laying on the ground. You should feel this stretching out your hip flexor/groin area. If you like, you can crawl your hands out, lowering your chest towards the ground, to help stretch out your back. Do the same on the other side.
External and Internal Supine Knee Rolls
Laying on your back, bend your knees and bring your legs to tabletop position. Gently place each hand upon each knee and roll your knees inward, allowing the joint where the femur (your thigh bone) meets the pelvis to move gently in the socket. Repeat, moving in the opposite direction, so you’re now rolling your knees outward. This move is best done slowly and gently, speed is not key here.
This one isn’t exactly a stretch, but it’s great for glute activation and you will find your mobility tested. Lay on your back, bend your knees and keep your feet and shoulders firmly placed on the ground. With force and control, push your hips up, squeeze your bum and core at the top, still breathing steady, for three to five seconds and then slowly lower your hips back down to the ground. As soon as your hips are down, raise them up again to repeat this move, 10 to 15 times.
Extra: Foam Rolling
If you have one available, foam rolling is also a fantastic way to massage and release some tightness in your glutes, hips and legs.
SEAT COMFORT AND ERGONOMICS
It may be the case that you simply have to spend long periods of time sitting, so what can you do to make it more comfortable for yourself?
You can take shorter and longer breaks to move around, stretch or exercise – this makes a huge difference and moves you from being a sedentary person to an active person (Source 3). However, you may want to think about investing in an ergonomic desk chair – which are available for purchase online and are made to be more comfortable for your body.
Or you could try sitting on the floor every now and then. Sitting on the floor gives you the opportunity to find comfort in being able to move as much as you like – with your knees bent in front of you; sitting crossed legged; one leg in and one leg out. You’ll find that you’ll be activating the lower body muscles regularly and moving in a way that feels more natural to your body, whether you sit on your chair; sofa; carpet or a floor cushion, it’s all about listening to your body, moving it regularly and finding what’s most comfortable for you.
If you’re looking for ways to shape, strengthen and stretch the muscles you’re using day to day, join Gemma’s virtual Shape and Stretch class every Wednesday, where we’ll be working on activation as well as lengthening.