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Pilates Focus - Let's Ditch The Desk

In our modern day sedentary culture we sit for unhealthily long periods of time. Sitting at a desk all day is a perfect scenario for bringing on back pain. The stress point is generally right on the lower back and being in a seated position all day causes muscular imbalances which are basically like a tug of war that is going on inside the body. 

Sitting at a desk all day puts you into a position of around 90 degrees of hip flexion for long periods. You might also drive a car or sit on a train in the same position to get to and from work. After all this, we sit down for lunch and dinner, and then relax on the sofa in the evening – this means we can spend 70-80 per cent of the day with our hips at around 90 degrees of flexion. Scary Stuff!!

Sitting puts nearly twice the stress on the spine as standing. Slouching while you sit increases the pressure even more. That's because hunching forward pushes the back into a convex or C shape. Now think about where your hips and thighs are in relation to your torso while you're sitting. They're bent, which causes the muscles on the front of your thighs, known as hip flexors, to contract slightly, or shorten. The more you sit, the more the fascia will keep your hip flexors shortened. 

There's yet another problem with all that sitting. If you spend too much time in a chair, your glute muscles will actually 'forget' how to fire. Your glutes are your body's largest muscle group. So if they are not functioning properly your weak glutes as well as tight hip flexors cause your pelvis to tilt forward. This puts stress on your lumbar spine, resulting in lower-back pain. It also pushes your tummy out, which gives you a protruding abdomen even if you don't have an ounce of fat. Oh No!!! I can just imagine you all jumping out of your seats.

The Good News - We can do something about this.

Strengthen your core - If you are experiencing pain in your lower back, it is already showing signs of weakness. Strengthen your core at a low level, switching on the transverse abdominis muscles by lying on your back with your knees bent and activating your pelvic floor. Place your fingers just inside the pelvic bones either side of your belly button and cough to feel the muscles bouncing under your fingertips. Tense these muscles by imagining you are stopping yourself from going to the toilet mid-flow and feel as though you are drawing your ‘sitting bones’ inside your body and drawing your hip bones together. This muscular contraction should not be too intense. Try contracting to 30% of your maximum and maintain this for as long as you can.Throughout this exercise keep your spine in neutral and maintain good posture.

Desk position - Make sure you are seated the proper distance from your desk with your elbows and knees at a 90-degree angle with feet flat on the floor.  Your chair should compensate for the natural curvature of the lumbar spine. If your chair has a vertical back you can roll up a towel to support your low back. There are some other great desk setups such as using a stability ball as a chair or changing from a sitting desk to a standing one. 

Take a stand - Movement is key because the disks in our vertebrae are important shock absorbers. When we're locked in one position we are starving the disks of nutrients. There is no vascular or nerve supply to the spinal disks and they get their nutrition through movement. If we are not moving, everything stagnates. Try setting an alarm to remind yourself to get up and move around. Have a whole-day approach to physical activity, Try going for a walk at lunch instead of chatting at your desk or use the stairs instead of the lift.

And finally ....Standing uses more muscles and burns more calories than sitting. Lets kick those glutes back into action. Small changes to your daily routine will give you long term change.

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