Make the Most of Your Sit Down Time

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October 21, 2008

By Lynn Difley

Being physically active makes people feel healthier and generates energy, as well as having many health benefits. If you are on the road, or stuck inside during bad weather, there are some things you can do to give your body and mind a break. These activities will give you a mental boost, fight stress and promote flexibility. Our bodies are meant for motion: sitting still is stressful and can lead to stiffness and loss of mobility. You may have noticed when you get up for a long period of sitting, how tight and stiff your body is. The average American sits for 7 ½ hours a day, that’s longer than they exercise, that’s for sure.
You can do Simple Moves without going to the gym, track, or trail, with no special skills or equipment.

  • Start out with a lean-back stretch. Sit up tall in your chair, and slowly arch your spine up and back, to the point of feeling a nice stretch, then curl back down. Breathe deeply; in while you arch up, out as you curl back down.
  • If you have been sitting and working with your hands–at a computer or sewing machine, stretch your wrist and arm frequently and take breaks away from the movement pattern to avoid carpal tunnel syndrome. Experts say that you should do some movement every hour. Circle the wrists around, slowly, and with a full range of motion. Open and close the hands, flex and bend your hands up and down, and in and out.
  • Get up and walk around, even if it’s just a few steps. Sitting puts such a heavy load on the lower back it can result in muscle atrophy and bouts of back pain and immobility. Moving around gets the blood flowing and decreases the load on the spine from sitting. If you can, walk for a few minutes, if you can’t, just march in place and get the blood circulating.
  • Stretch your chest by bringing your hands behind your head, elbows to the side. Pull your shoulder blades together and elbows back.
  • Arch and round your back, slowly and as fully as you can 4-5 times to stretch the lower back and spine.
  • Give yourself a hug. Bring the arms across the chest, trying to reach around your back as far as possible, Hold for a deep inhale. Exhale, then relax. Repeat with the other arm on top, to stretch back and shoulders.
  • Keeping your shoulders pressed down, tilt your head to the right, then left, then forward. Do not force the head to move, just let it relax gently to the sides and forward to loosen up neck muscles and release tension in the neck and shoulders.
  • With your feet firmly on the ground, reach up with the right arm, as if to touch the ceiling. Bend to the left, then lower, repeat on the other side. A great move to reduce tension and restore blood flow and energy.

If you do these moves every hour or so, you may just survive a long cross country journey or confinement due to weather. Give it a try.

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