Almost 90% of full-time workers in America sit at a desk all day, five days a week. Sitting for prolonged periods, not moving or stretching, has been linked to numerous health issues. Clinicians have even coined the term “sitting disease” to refer to the 34 chronic conditions associated with a sedentary lifestyle.
In addition to obesity, high blood pressure, and cholesterol, not moving your body enough can shorten your muscles. This can cause them to become tight, weak, and unable to extend fully. It also puts you at a higher risk of joint pain and muscle damage, especially as you age.
Implementing stretching breaks throughout your day is crucial to protecting your mobility. The benefits of stretching are endless. To list just a few, it improves blood flow, strengthens your muscles, boosts your energy, reduces body aches, and protects you from injuries as you mature. It also helps your mental health by reducing stress and promoting better sleep.
“Stretching is for more than just athletes or when you are working out,” says Michael Heaton, MSPT, orthopedic and sports supervisor. “Everyone should perform stretches regardless of their physical activity level to keep their muscles flexible and strong.”
Fortunately, you don’t have to go far to get in your daily stretches if you’re stuck at a desk all week. Take a break every hour and try a few right at your workstation.
After warming up for five to 10 minutes with light cardio like walking in place, hold the stretch for 30 seconds, breathe normally, and don’t bounce. Remember to slowly ease into the position and stop if you feel any pain. It is normal to feel an uncomfortable slight pull, but you should not be experiencing sharp or stabbing pains. It may take some time, but eventually, you will see and feel the results.
“Consistency and commitment are the keys to seeing results with stretching,” said Heaton. “Don’t get frustrated if you’re not doing the splits after a day or two. It can take months to see improvements in your flexibility.”
Pushing yourself too far too fast can lead to overstretching, which can cause a strain or sprain. Do not stretch the muscle if it is injured. If you have overstretched and the injury does not improve after a few days, schedule an appointment with your doctor. If you’ve recently experienced an injury, you should only perform stretches that your physician has recommended to allow your body to heal correctly.
If you’re new to stretching or have physical limitations that make it challenging to lengthen specific muscles, seeing a fitness specialist may help. Our team of certified instructors and personal trainers at the Providence St. Jude Wellness Center can help increase your flexibility and return your range of motion.
For more information on our group fitness classes or to schedule a personal training session, call 714-578-8770 or visitstjudewellnesscenter.org.