Sitting has been deemed the new smoking in terms of how it negatively impacts your health. Aside from being terrible for your cardiovascular health, sitting for too long during the day can also put you at risk while you’re in the gym.
Let’s take a look at how sitting increases your risk of injury by limiting blood flow, straining muscles, and causing over-compensation issues.
When you spend your day sitting for hours, the first thing you’ll notice is fatigue. It usually occurs a few hours after you first begin to work. The coffee might keep you going strong in the beginning, but eventually you’ll start to feel tired. Why does this happen?
Although many people will claim that it’s exclusively due to dehydration, which may play a part in it, the bigger cause is a lack of blood flow. Sitting causes a restriction in blood flow. If it happens once in a while, it’s not a problem, but if you are spending up to ten hours per day in a sitting position, you’re severely limiting blood flow.
A lack of blood flow doesn’t allow oxygen and nutrients to reach cells and muscular tissue. The result is muscular fatigue.
There’s a good chance that every time you stand up after sitting for too long, you immediately reach for your shoulders, neck, and lower back because they are sore. It’s no coincidence.
Sitting is an unnatural position. Again, when it’s done for a little bit, you won’t notice much of a difference. Extended periods of sitting can place a great deal of strain on the skeletomuscular system, shortening or tightening key muscle groups. The ones that feel it the worst are your lower back, traps, shoulders, and neck. If you’re typing on a keyboard, you can include your wrists.
Think about your normal workout routine. Did you notice that every muscle group that feels sore is also essential for literally every exercise you do?
Over Compensation Issues
If you’ve been working at a desk job for months or years, this is where things can get complicated. Over time, some muscles become too weak to perform their given function during a workout. In response, a stronger muscle group takes over for it. The problem here is that the stronger muscle groups can’t pull the weight meant for two or more muscle groups on its own.
What’s more, if the stronger muscle group has been fatigued or strained from sitting in a desk all day, you’re essentially tripling the workload. Eventually, the stronger muscle group will succumb to the all of the work that it has to do.
The greatest example of this is with weak glutes. Sitting all day has been show to weaken your glutes. As a result, when you go into a workout, the surrounding muscle groups, the hamstrings and lower back, will pick up the slack. Eventually, the workload from a squat or deadlift will become too much.
Sitting Too Much: The Result Is an Injury
Okay, let’s walk through the process from start to finish:
You’re sitting for hours each and every day. Weeks then months pass. You notice you become tired at work after a few hours of sitting down. When you do get to jog or work out, you might notice that you’re out of breath faster than you were before.
Every day when you finish work, you immediately reach for the over-the-counter medications before you head to the gym. You’re liberally applying menthol-based creams to soothe achy muscles. You notice that when you finally get into the weight room, you feel stiff or stuck during basic compound exercises, most notably the squat and deadlift.
One day, you enter the gym looking to crush your legs. You’ve taken your over-the-counter pain reducers and you stink like menthol. You go down for a deep squat and as you try to stand up you feel something in your leg tear. You drop the weight and say goodbye to the gym for months.
How to Avoid an Injury from Sitting
The example above illustrates how quickly things can go from bad to worse as you don’t even realize what’s going on. Here are the best ways to avoid an injury from sitting:
50 / 10 Method: This one is pretty simple: For every 50 minutes you spend sitting, stand up for 10 minutes.
Stretch Every Day: No, it’s not the most glamorous part of fitness, but making a daily habit of stretching, especially if you have a desk job, can save you from a lot of pain and potential injury.
Walk During Lunch: This is a must: during your lunch break, take several minutes (or the entire thing) to stroll around the outside of the building. If the weather doesn’t allow it, try to walk around the building itself, even if it’s just in the stairwell.
Drink Plenty of Water: This helps to keep you and your muscles hydrated. You’ll notice a boost in your energy levels.
Focus on Problem Areas: Sure, full-body stretching and workout routines are important, but if you’re sitting all day long, you need to pay extra attention to the common problem areas: the glutes, lower back, shoulders, and neck. Give a few more minutes to each during stretching. Consider getting a massage every other week. Most importantly, strengthen these muscles to avoid over compensation issues.
Do You Think Sitting Increases the Risk of Injury?
Do you have a desk job? Have you noticed tight muscles after work? What do you do to avoid injury when you’re in the gym? Let us know on our Facebook.