I have a client who has no choice — she has to sit on the job.
That’s because she’s an amputee who lost her left lower leg in a lawn mower accident as a child. She now works in medicine, assisting surgeries for most of the day and in her office for the remaining hours—and during all that time, she’s sitting. When she started experiencing pain because of it, she came to me. Since I’m a Corrective Exercise Specialist, I was able to assess and work with her in addressing the dysfunction in her hips and hamstrings, the result of prolonged sitting.
Many fitness trainers, however, ignore those particular muscles. They’re used to guys who want to bulk up the upper half of their bodies and women who focus on glutes, quadriceps, triceps, and anything abdominal related. So, I felt gratified and validated when my client showed me an article in a magazine dedicated to helping amputees in all aspects of life. The article suggested all the exercises I had her do in previous sessions to increase mobility and strength in her hamstrings and hips — and she was impressed that I knew to focus on those muscles, since I had never worked with an amputee before. I told her it was simply a result of all my experience working with executives and other individuals who were relatively sedentary — I learned over time where the physical problems hit the hardest and how to correct those imbalances.
It all centers on the hips. From an evolution standpoint, we weren’t built to sit for long periods of time. Your muscles have to work overtime to support it, and you end up stretching hamstring muscles, tightening your quadriceps and remodeling your hips. Also, nerves can become compressed and common issues such as sciatica (back pain) can occur.
When you stop sitting and decide to get upright, you’ve got more potential problems on your hands — or more accurately, in your hips. When you go to stand up, you end up trying to put the pelvis back into a standing position and some of these muscles get irritated and strained in the process. Lower back pain is a frequent result. The hips, while often overlooked, are critical to your body’s alignment of your legs and torso. They must be strong to do that job — but sitting weakens them and gravity suddenly becomes your worst enemy. Your legs will collapse inward, put pressure on your kneecaps and eventually cause flat feet.
But at any rate, now you’re standing. When you go ahead and take a step, however, and the hips are no longer strong enough to hold themselves up, you end up with hip pain. Meanwhile, the lower back tries to take some of the burden off the hips — and that’s not good for the lower back. The pain that results travels up the spine and in your neck. And you can also end up throwing out your lower back.
All of this negatively affects your posture, because you’re twisting your muscles into positions they don’t much care for. Those muscles become strained and it creates more weakness in your body.
The fact is mobility in the hips is key to movement in all directions. The glutes are the largest muscle of the body and responsible for producing power when you squat, lunge, jump, swing a golf club, pick up a bag of mulch, and all other movements related to bending at the knee and lowering your hips. All those movements become much more difficult when your hips lack the strength and flexibility to function properly. As you grow older, you begin to have basic balance issues and falls are the unfortunate result. I actually see this developing in people as young as their early 40’s!
To order my book, The Athlete in the Game of Life, go to my website mattpeale.com and click the banner at the top. You can also download my free report on back pain to enter for a free signed copy of my book. You win either way!