I recently asked my colleague, physical therapist Aaron Swanson, to discuss movement and how the lack of it can affect our bodies. Read on to find out the latest information and treatment to help prevent moving like a Zombie!
As a physical therapist, I can’t stop paying attention to the way people move. If you’re around me, I’m probably judging your posture and movement. Chances are that if we are hanging out, I’m judging your posture and the way you move, but not in a bad way. It’s simply a curious mind that I can’t turn off.
After years of this human observation, I have noticed a common thread in the way people move when they get off of an airplane, finish a long dinner, or stand up after a movie - they move like the walking dead. They are stiff, slow, and some of them groan.
There’s a reason why most people react the same way to prolonged periods of sitting - it’s one of the worst things you can do to your body.
Research has backed up this common observation. Dr. James Levine has conducted over 100 studies on the effects of sedentary behavior and has found that “Excessive sitting is associated with 34 chronic diseases and conditions including obesity, diabetes, cancer, depression and back pain.”
Unfortunately for students, the school year is plagued with prolonged sitting postures. Between commuting, classes, studying, and leisure activities, many students spend most of their time sitting down. From a movement perspective this is dangerous due to the static, flexed posture of the hips, which can lead to maladaptive tissue changes, poor body awareness, and decreased mobility. As the day goes on and as sitting time increases, the hips may lose their ability to move properly and other areas may start to compensate (feet, low back, neck, etc.). And sooner or later, compensations become injuries.
So how do you avoid the harmful effects of sitting? How do you de-zombify your body?
Walking more frequently and standing desks are two easy ways to combat many of the deleterious effects of sitting. However, this doesn’t resolve the loss of hip mobility that accompanies prolonged sitting. To restore normal hip motion it is necessary to perform specific mobility drills on a daily basis.
Below are 3 easy mobility drills that will help reverse the damage of sitting. Performing all of these stretches for 30 seconds on each leg will only take a total of 3 minutes. Stack these stretches on top of a routine that you already perform (after your morning coffee, pre-workout stretches, before you brush your teeth, etc.) and it can become habit in no time. It’s a small price to pay for healthy hips.
1) Hip Flexor Stretch
Key Tip: make sure your low back stays neutral and doesn’t over arch as you increase the stretch
2) 90-90 Hip Rotation Mobility
Key Tips: go slow, pay attention to the back of your hips, and don’t push too aggressively
3) Dynamic Body Sling Mobility / Modified Low Lunge Twist
Key Tip: breathe and be sure to brace the opposite side of the muscles being stretched stretch
While these stretches may not seem profound, it’s important to remember that small hinges swing big doors. And this is especially true when it comes to the hip joint and human movement.
If you have any pain or discomfort during these stretches, please contact a medical professional for help.
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Aaron Swanson is a practicing physical therapist at Dynamic Sports Physical Therapy in Manhattan, New York. Contact him for a professional consultation http://dynamicsportspt.com/