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Updated: Sep 24, 2022

by Lee Snider
Aug. 27, 2022

Surely we can all agree that excessive sitting is the most common repetitive and dysfunctional pattern in our society, no? I can't think of a thing we do more - that our predecessors didn't do - or that impacts us more, than rolling a chair up to a desk and slouching into that screen time. Jobs that entail long bouts of sitting more often than not, stressful sitting, are so common in our culture, and I'm more than guilty. A course I took in 2019, had me at a desk every day for a year. I was so focused on learning, I didn't think twice about my sitting and I paid for it greatly.

So what is the "Sitting Hips" condition? ..which according to a quick google search, a phrase I may have coined..Well, In brief, long periods of time spent in a shortened hip position, often during times of higher stress due to work demands, can promote excessive tension in the front of the hips, or quads and hip flexors. Other muscles of the body, like pecs, shoulders, hamstrings, and more, are directly affected as well and many more areas of the body are impacted as a "downstream" affect. To me, it starts in the hips and this is where we see the posture begin to adapt to the sitting shape and take on a new form. But, we can't forget that everything is connected and every human body is different. This means everyone sits their own way and is likely affected in their own unique way.

But for the average client I work with, this is typically expressed as an Anterior Pelvic Shift and/or an Anterior Pelvic Tilt. In other words, your hips are forward in space and tilted. You can see this in many different forms; it can be a "booty" with a rounded low back or a seemingly flat bum. It can be a broad-chested stance or a dramatic rounding of the shoulders. In my opinion, it depends on the physiological make-up of the person and how long they have been sitting.

Over time, this leads to a slough of subsequent reactions around the body, and in the eyes of many, can likely be the underlying condition that leads to most injuries or ailments. So, yes I'm saying that not sitting up straight led you to some bad posture which led you to that injury, and your grandmother was right. Although the efficiency of the sitting may not have saved you entirely.

So what can we do? Here are 3 things we can do, as part of a very realistic approach to resolution: (rather than a "western world" approach of symptom treatment)

1) Curb the problem - Sitting (and Shoes)

Obviously, if you have a leaking pipe, you don't seek inventive ways to deal with the water, you stop the leak! So if you're dealing with symptoms of over-sitting, you need to fix the sitting! Of course, much easier said than done. It seems that getting an ergonomic stand-up desk is not an option for most people. If it's not, here are some other ways you can curb the sitting problem:

*Sit Better

We can always sit a bit better. Even sitting on the edge of our chair with our back straight and feet flat on the floor, is much more conducive to healthy posture over time. Other sitting devices like stability ball chairs and stools can be helpful, or swapping out the chair completely! I'll touch on that later.

*Schedule "walks"

Setting a timer on your phone for every 15-45 minutes can be a great way to break up the sitting pattern. As a bonus, you can pair this with a water break as a great tactic for getting your h2o intake!

*Stand Where Possible

Whether on the bus, subway, in a meeting or even in the break room on lunch, stand wherever you can. Check out this quick tutorial on how to stand better.

*Swap Couch time for Floor Time

There are so many ways to sit or rest on the floor, rather than that default couch position, which, although it's different than your desk, is still sitting! Try spending time on the floor, in whatever position is comfortable to start. You can even try a Zafu cushion like these beautiful handmade ones here. This video is a great resource for mindful floor sitting.

*Offset Sitting

Despite your best efforts, you will likely still be sitting and putting yourself at risk of many postural implications down the road. So, to really give yourself a fighting chance, try offsetting the sitting you do with a simple stretch. This variation here could be a good one for the office!

And lastly, when it comes to eliminating conditions that will perpetuate hip problems, we have to talk about shoes. Believe it or not, conventional footwear is typically more disruptive than it is beneficial. Shoes, while they should be there to provide protection for feet, are actually blunting many functions of our feet and ankles, which over time can lead to limited movement and all types of conditions such as Plantar Fasciitis and Bunions. Nick from TFC explains this in a neat way here.

Your goal with footwear should simply be to move as close as you can to natural footwear which is a shoe that is flat, foot-shaped, flexible and allows you to feel the ground!

2) Undo Problem Areas and Relax Tissues

We can do this with MFR or Myofascial Release. More specifically, self-administered Myofascial Release. This involves using rolling devices - like medicine balls, lacrosse balls or ABS piping - strategically on the body to sequentially unwind areas that have become excessively tight and overactive and likely keeping you in a bad or painful posture.

Don't over complicate MFR. Relax the area you are rolling, allowing the ball/ device to get deep and look for the pain. 2 minutes per spot is a great place to start.

Again, I recommend a hard medicine ball (8-10 lbs usually) or a lacrosse ball. If that is too painful, start on a foam roller or tennis ball and build yourself up.

Here are 5 very common MFR sites on the body to get you started. Hopefully you can feel a nice sense of release from just these 5. Enjoy ;)

1. Quads (medicine ball) 2. IT Band (medicine ball) 3. Pec Major (medicine ball)

4. Calves (lacrosse ball) 5. Feet (lacrosse ball)

3) Strengthen and Re-integrate Dormant Muscles

When we eliminate the sitting problem through reduction and offsetting techniques and we are actively working to eliminate the uneven tension throughout the body with MFR, we can work to restore some good postural positions by targeting certain areas of the body. These are the common areas that become a bit dormant from repetitive sitting, namely the glutes and the core.

One great exercise to start with is a plank. When done efficiently, as in this video here, the plank can be so much more than a "core" exercise. Give it a try. The other area of the body that could help us a lot is the glutes. And specifically retraining our hip's ability to extend. This is the movement of a hinge or a deadlift. I recommend basic bridge variations done on the ground or box/ bench, with emphasis on core engagement and keeping the lower back neutral. And lastly, we can't ignore the upper body. With most bodies that have sat repetitively, there will be some degree of rounding in the shoulders or mid spine. For this, we'd embrace some thoracic extension exercises like this one here.

In a perfect world we'd be outside all day, living in nature and not stuck in a destructive chair in front of a screen. But for most, that's not realistic. But, luckily we can adopt a realistic approach to preventing this destruction and the sooner you start the better!

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