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Cindy Boggs is an American Council on Exercise-certified fitness professional, corporate wellness presenter and author of the award winning book, CindySays… "You Can Find Health in Your Hectic World." Her web site is www.cindysays.com.

We are learning more each day how sitting for long periods can be detrimental to our health. People remaining sedentary in a chair for more than six hours a day not only increase their chances of increased blood pressure, high blood sugar and abnormal cholesterol levels, but they also open the door to hip and back issues. Hip flexors are the muscles responsible for flexing the hip or drawing the knees to your chest as well as moving your legs front to back and side to side. Habitual sitting causes the hip flexors to tighten and shorten, reducing the suppleness needed for a healthy hip joint. 

We know that tight hip flexors are extremely common in the running and cycling community because the movement they do is so repetitious and can create muscle imbalances and pain. Many people who must sit for long periods of time at work are considered deskbound. They rarely consider how this might affect their muscles, joints and back.

What's the problem?

Being in a seated position at work can indeed wreak havoc with the body. In fact, statistics estimate that half of the workers in the United States sit more than six hours a day. They also say they go home and 65 percent of them sit to watch another two hours of television. When seated, the hip flexors tighten and shorten and can produce pain in the low back, knee and hip joint and sabotage posture. 

Get up

The first and best thing to remember if you are deskbound is to take a break at least once an hour. Get up and get out of that seated posture. Lift your chest, pull back your shoulders and head and lean back gently. This is extremely helpful to offset the position these muscles stay in as you sit.

Loosen up

In order to release the tension built up in the muscles, you need to spend a few minutes each day stretching to elongate them. This will ease the pain you are experiencing in your hips, and it may also prevent future injury as this pain can easily lead to pain in your back. 

The American Council on Exercise, a leading educator of fitness professionals, recommends three stretches for anyone sitting for prolonged periods: 

 

  • Kneeling hip flexor stretch — Begin in a single-leg kneeling position with right foot in front and kneeling on left knee. Maintain a neutral spine and contract left glute to stretch the left hip flexor. Repeat on opposite leg. 
  • Piriformis stretch — Begin on hands and knees, placing hands underneath shoulders and knees underneath hips. Cross right foot over left and shift hands over to the right. Gradually shift weight over to right hip, lower hip toward floor until you feel a stretch. Repeat on opposite side.
  • Quadratus lumborum stretch — Begin lying on back with feet on floor and knees toward ceiling and arms extended out to sides of body, palms facing up. Cross right leg over left leg and slowly lower both legs to left and hold 30 seconds. Keeping the legs crossed, slowly move legs to center then lower legs to left and hold 30 seconds.

 

If you have tight hip flexors and/or back pain, elongating these muscles can prevent injury, ease discomfort and even improve posture. A few minutes twice a day will have a remarkable effect in the way you feel after a long day sitting at your desk.