Hamstrings and calves make up this last muscle group affected by prolonged sitting. The first four muscle groups included the neck, chest, low back, and hip flexors. The great news is that tight and painful muscles are preventable and reversible! Simply take advantage of short breaks throughout the day and actively stretch.
Just remember to speak to your physician before any changes are made to your health care regime. Additionally, do not bounce while stretching. Bouncing can tear your muscle fibers. Always discontinue any exercise if stretching causes pain, and if something hurts when you do it, please stop.
Back of the Legs (Hamstrings and Calves):
In these busy times, much of our time is spent sitting in a chair or a car. Sitting with knees bent for prolonged periods of time can tighten the back of the legs and increase your risk of back and leg pain. This can easily be avoided by stretching the back of the legs.
Sitting Hamstring Stretch:
If you already have poor balance or a history of back pain, sit in a stable chair with your back supported.
Slowly raise the lower right leg until you feel a stretch in the back of the leg. If you don’t feel a stretch, then, while keeping the
right leg extended, slowly lean forward at the hip until you feel a stretch in the back of the leg.
You can further increase the stretch by flexing your toes towards your nose.
Hold this position for 20-30 seconds and repeat 2-3 times.
Repeat on opposite side.
Standing Hamstring Stretch:
Stand next to a stable surface that you can grab onto if you lose your
With the arms by your side and your knees comfortably straight (not locked), round your back and bend forward at the waist, walk your fingers down your legs until you feel a comfortable stretch in the back of the legs. Please keep the knees straight but not locked.
Hold this position for 20-30 seconds and then slowly walk your fingers back up your thighs until you are in the full standing position.
Repeat 2-3 times.
Note: If this exercise causes dizziness or severe loss of balance, then discontinue this exercise.
Calf Stretch 1:
Stand facing a wall.
While holding onto the wall, lunge with your right foot forward (front knee bent) and the left leg backward (back leg straight).
While holding on the wall, slowly transfer your body weight onto the back leg pushing the heel to the ground. You should feel a stretch in the back calf.
Hold for 20-30 seconds and then repeat 2-3 times.
Note: If you do not feel a stretch in the calf, then move your back foot backwards a little and try again.
Repeat on the opposite side.
Calf Stretch 2:
This exercise is designed for people who are quite flexible in the calf muscle.
Choose a wall that you don’t mind getting a little dirty.
Stand facing a wall with your feet about an arms length away.
While using your hands on the wall to balance, place your right foot on the wall.
Lean your body weight forward towards the wall until you feel a stretch in the calf muscle.
You can do this exercise with your right knee straight and then the right knee bent.
Hold each stretch for 20-30 seconds and repeat 2-3 times.
Repeat on opposite side.
The stretching exercises shared throughout this five part series can be done separately throughout the day so it is easier to accomplish. Just think, we have the power to make a big difference in our overall health with just a few minutes spent everyday caring for ourselves! Enjoy life and continue moving and stretching! Any questions?
NOTE: Speak to your physician before you make changes to your health care regime. Also remember, please do not bounce during stretching. This can cause muscle fibers to tear. If stretching causes pain, discontinue exercise and if anything hurts when you do it, please stop immediately.
Front Hip Muscles (hip flexors):
As we grow older and sit more, the front of the hips become stiff and tight. Everyone should incorporate this stretch into their everyday lives and do it several times a day. If you are sitting for prolonged periods of time, it is extra important to stretch the front of the hips.
Lunge and Hold Stretch:
Begin by standing with your legs a few inches apart.
Take a comfortable step forward with your right leg and bend the front leg into a lunge. Be sure to keep the front knee in line or slightly behind the forefoot. This will ensure the knee is in a safe position to support your body weight. If you have trouble balancing, do this exercise next to a stable object like a wall or chair.
Keeping the hips facing forward, transfer your weight onto the front foot until you feel a stretch in the front of the hip of the back leg. Be careful not to arch your back during this exercise. If you do not feel a stretch, try squeezing your bottom together and then transferring your weight forward onto your front knee.
Note: The back foot (heel) can come up slightly to allow the stretch in front of the hip.
Hold the stretch for 30 seconds and then relax.
Repeat on opposite side and perform 2-3 times each side.
The wonderful thing about stretching exercises, is that you can incorporate them into your schedule when it is most convenient for you. It may be taking a 5-10 minute break between taking care of the kids, or after having sat at work for several hours. Next week we will take a look at the last muscle group — the back of the legs which includes the hamstrings and calves. Which of the exercises presented in the series so far is your favorite?
Lower back pain can be avoided with simple stretches. This is the third in the series focusing on the five most common muscle groups that tighten up when you sit for prolonged periods of time. The first article, Your Health — A Few Simple Moves, introduced you to the risks associated with sitting and a simple stretch for the neck muscles. The second article, Simple Stretches to Reduce the Pain of Sitting, shared two stretches for the chest muscles. This article will focus on the lower back muscles.
*As a reminder, before you make any changes to your health regime, speak to your physician. Also, please do not bounce during stretching. This can tear muscle fibers. Discontinue exercise if stretching causes pain, and if something hurts when you do it, please stop.
Lower Back — Stretches to Make a Difference:
Prolonged sitting can cause strain to the spinal nerves that attach at the spine and run through the buttock and down the legs. Standing and stretching the back muscles can greatly lessen the strain placed on those spinal nerves.
Hoola Hoop Stretch:
Choose a place to stand where your hips have enough space to move in a circle.
First, stand with your feet hip-width apart and put your hands on your hips.
Smoothly and slowly, move your hips to the right, then to the back (without sticking your derriere
out too far), circle around to the left and back where you started in the beginning position.
Do not pouch your hips forward, your low back may not like that position.
Repeat slowly in a circle again 3-5 times then reverse directions starting from the left.
With your arms relaxed, hanging by your side, stand with your feet a comfortable distance apart.
Bring your left hand to your waist, raise your right arm up and toward the left, and slightly bend your knees. Do not go too far to your side or bend your knees too deeply. You just want a nice stretch.
Return to your starting place with your arms relaxed at your side, and reverse it. You will put your right hand on your waist, raise your left arm up and toward the right, and bend your knees.
Again, return to your starting position and repeat 3 more times.
Next week we will learn stretches to help your hip flexors — the front hit muscles. What is your favorite stretch?
Simple stretches can reduce the injury and pain syndromes that result from muscle tightness when you sit for prolonged periods of time. This is great news in light of the fact that quite a few of us sit for a good part of the day. This article is the second in the series on how you can avoid and possibly even reverse tight and painful muscles. It starts with taking short breaks during the work day and actively stretching.
The 5 Most Common Muscle Groups:
The 5 most common muscle groups that tighten up with prolonged sitting include the neck muscles, pectoral muscles (chest), low back muscles, hip flexors (front hip muscles), and the back of legs. In last week’s article, A Few Simple Moves, we learned the simple move for stretching the neck muscles. This week we will take a look at the chest (pectoral) muscles. Before you even begin, please check with your physician before you make any changes to your health regimen and if something hurts when you do it, immediately stop.
Chest (Pectoral) Muscles:
When writing, the shoulders are usually positioned in a forward position causing the chest (pectoral) muscles to become tight.
Stand in the middle of an open door frame.
Take one small step backwards.
Lift your right arm up to the side to shoulder level and bend your arm at the elbow with your palm facing forward.
Keeping your arm at shoulder level, place your forearm on the door jam and lunge forward onto your left leg.
Move your upper torso forward placing weight onto the front leg until you feel a stretch in the front chest muscles.
Hold the position for 20-30 seconds and then go back to the beginning position.
Repeat on the opposite side.
Chest Stretch 2:
Stand with your hands clasped behind you.
Keeping hands clasped, lift arms up behind the body until you feel a stretch in the front chest muscles.
Hold for 20-30 seconds.
Repeat 2-3 times.
Next week we’ll take a look at the low back muscles. How many hours do you usually sit in a day?