It's an unfortunate fact: in this technological age, more and more of us are seated for longer periods of time.
From sitting for long commutes in the car, being stuck behind the computer for hours on end, or binging in front of netflix, the cumulative effects of sitting for too long each day can have a big impact on your long term mobility and health.
Besides causing weight gain and reducing your cardiovascular health, sitting can cause stiff and sore muscles and joints. A day or two of stiff, sore muscles may seem like nothing, but living in this state can diminish suppleness and flexibility in your joints and increased likelihood of injury.
The musculoskeletal system, which is made up of bones, cartilage, ligaments, and following, joints. And of course, the muscular system interplays with this system to create — when all is well — a robust and functional body.
But the body isn't meant to be static. Life is movement so it's essential to your physical and emotional happiness and wellbeing that you don't spend an excessive amount of time sitting, thereby compromising your vitality in the short and long term.
Of course, to a certain extent, sitting around is unavoidable — especially if it's part of your job. But even still, by being conscious of the importance of staying mobile, you can prompt yourself to get up from behind the desk every hour and move your body a little.
Too many hours spent sitting each day cause the shoulders to round forward and spine to curve over time. It also causes tension throughout your body, making you less flexible as you age.
Thankfully, there are things you can do to minimise the impact of sitting that can help to keep your muscles and joints strong and vital.
Keep reading to learn our top five tips....
5 Ways to Counteract Sitting & Soothe Sore Muscles & Stiff Joints
1. Take Stretch Breaks
As little as a few minutes of stretching can release tension in your mind and body. Set a timer if you need to, but take a three to five minute stretching break every hour.
You'll be able to go back to work with renewed focus and energy.
It can be as simple as bending and touching your toes and allowing your torso to hand heavy for a few seconds, then reaching up. Some light bouncing or twisting on the spot or if you're at home, some more elaborate yoga-type stretches like the following are even better:
Start on your hands and knees and breathe evenly and deeply through your nose. Inhale, opening your chest and arching your spine so that it is concave. Hold for two deep breaths.
To move to cat, exhale and move your spine up, rounding out your shoulders. Hold for two deep breaths. Alternate between cat and cow five to ten times.
Begin in on your hands and knees, then, bringing your right knee forward, place it behind your right wrist. Place your right ankle in front of your left hip. Extend your left leg back, straightening your knee. Point your toes and ensure your leg is right behind your body, the heel pointing to the sky.
Make sure your hips are square. If you are tilting off to the side, put a yoga block, a rolled-up towel or pillow under your right butt-cheek. Inhale as you lift your torso. Come onto your fingertips. Your hands should be shoulder-width apart. Open your chest by rolling your shoulders back and down, then tuck in your navel and draw your tailbone toward the floor.
Exhale, then walk your hands forward. Bring your chest toward the floor, rest ing your head on your folded arms. Or you can keep your arms straight and rest your forehead on the floor. Be sure to repeat with the other leg. Hold for 5-10 deep breaths into your diaphragm.
Standing straight, bring your arms out to your sides and with your palms facing behind you, point your thumbs down. Now, take a deep breath in and pull the arms back gently, as if someone is tugging your thumbs back. Hold for five deep breaths.
All of these exercises open up your hips and chest to help create balance and relaxation in your body.
3. Nurture Your Parasympathetic Nervous System
Just because you're not moving doesn't mean your body and mind aren't undergoing stress--and it doesn't necessarily mean you always need to move more.
An easy and effective way to counteract this stress involves nurturing your parasympathetic nervous system to recover.
Your parasympathetic system is your "rest and digest" system and giving this system room to thrive is essential to being able to function.
After all, there is no “on” with an “off.”
We recommend setting up an at-home recovery station. Have a yoga mat so you can lie flat on the floor. Lying on your back, with your legs elevated under a cushion or up against the wall is a wonderful way to release stress. Also, have some coconut oil with a few drops of lavender essential oil that you can rub into your temples before you lie down.
The other way to nurture your parasympathetic nervous system is to take a hot Epsom Salts Bath for 20-30 minutes at least a couple of nights per week. The Magnesium within the salts nourishes and eases tension in your muscles and joints and hot baths are one of the most effective ways helps to relax and soothe your mind and body at the same time. Add 10-12 drops of your favourite essential oils, light a candle, put on some calming music and/or diffuse essential oils next to the bath as well.
A weighted blanket can also foster feelings of relaxation and nurture your parasympathetic nervous system.
4. Try a Standing Desk
A standing desk is a brilliant way to prevent the soreness and stiffness associated with sitting for a long time.
Even if you don't use it is all the time, and split your time between and standing desk and a seated one, spending a little less time parked on your rear will help reduce pain and stiffness.
4. Deep Breathing
Intentional deep breathing is an effective way to help release tension in your muscles and joints.
We breathe automatically but when we breathe deeply with intention and focus on the points of discomfort, it can assist to soothe the pain.
- Gently close your eyes and focus on the area of discomfort
- Take a long, slow breath in through your nose, first filling your lower lungs, then your upper lungs.
- Hold your breath to the count of "three."
- Exhale slowly through pursed lips, while you relax the muscles in your face, jaw, shoulders, and stomach.
Repeat this exercise on different areas of your body for 5-10 minutes which will assist.
5. Outside Earthing or Grounding
We can’t undersell the importance of getting outside and spending time, if possible, in nature every day. Even your own backyard will do, as long as you are able to put your bare feet on the earth.
Placing your body in direct contact with the earth, also called earthing, helps you to absorb the earth's electricity. This connection has been shown to have not only de-stressing benefits, but also, anti-inflammatory benefits.
Think of it like plugging your body into the most nourishing, revitalising battery.
The result is that your body will be re-energised and your muscles relaxed.
Instead of spending hours of your day in pain, spend a few minutes every day taking care of your body and start to counteract the stresses of sitting. Your body and brain will thank you for it — not just now, but for years down the road.
Tolman Self Care.