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Sedentary Behavior


From the Health interview:

What are some of the negative effects of increased sedentary behavior?


If one is sitting all day it can cause neck and back problems, especially if sitting in poor posture. The head weighs 10 pounds and sitting in a head forward position while looking at a screen can cause strain to the muscles of the neck and back. Sedentary behavior can cause weight gain because there is very little calorie expenditure throughout the day.


What can people do to try to reverse these trends, especially while under lockdown?


I recommend that everyone have weights or a resistance bands so that strength training exercises can be performed during conference calls or during short breaks. There are also numerous exercises that can be done such as squats which require no equipment. Walking around the house or outside and going up and down the stairs are good ways to increase physical activity.


Having an exercise buddy is very helpful. Knowing that your friend is going to be waiting meeting you for a socially distanced walk can help you find the motivation to exercise. An exercise buddy makes you accountable- you know that you have to meet your friend on a specific date and time and enables you to keep up with your friends while improving your health. You can also take advantage of zoom exercise classes.


What is the link between back pain and sedentary behavior? Poor gluteal strength is the cause of much of our back, hip, and knee pain. The gluteal muscles help to support the entire body and when it they are weak; it places too much stress on other body parts. Long periods of sitting only weakens the gluteals and tightens the hip flexors. A strong core is also needed to prevent back issues. A good strength-training program to prevent back pain should include strengthening exercises for the gluteals and the core along with the appropriate stretches.


What are some exercises can people do from home to reduce back pain and lessen the effects of being homebound?


Stretching Rack

Lie flat on your back with your legs fully extended in front of you, and your arms fully extended overhead. Imagine that someone is pulling on your feet and on your hands at the same time, stretching them as far from the center of your body as possible. Reach as far as you can, then hold the stretch through two cycles of relaxation breathing: breathe in for 5 seconds, breathe out for 5 seconds, repeat. This lengthening stretch will help with opening up the spaces between your vertebrae to decompress your spine and take pressure off your lower back.


Knee Drops

Lie flat on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Bring your hands behind your head with your elbows flat against the floor. Pull your knees toward your chest, then slowly drop your knees over to one side while maintaining the position of your upper body. Hold this stretch through a cycle of relaxation breathing, then bring your knees back to center and reverse. Only lower your knees as far as they can go to one side without twisting your lower back off the floor.

Torso Stretch

Lie flat on your back with your legs extended and arms open to the side. Slowly lift one leg toward the ceiling until it is perpendicular, then lower it across your body toward the floor. Hold the stretch through a cycle of relaxation breathing, then slowly raise the extended leg back toward the ceiling, lower it back to its starting position, and reverse. Try to keep your upper body still throughout the stretch and press your shoulder blades to the floor.

Child’s Pose

Kneel on the floor, then sit on your heels and separate your knees about as wide as your hips while keeping your toes touching together. Lean your belly down between your thighs and reach your arms straight out in front of you, simultaneously pulling your arms and hips in opposite directions. Press your hands in to the floor and hold the stretch through at least one cycle of relaxation breathing. Slide your hands out to a wider position and hold this stretch through at least one cycle of relaxation breathing.


Cow/Cat Stretch

Begin on your hands and knees in a table top position. Make sure your knees are directly below your hips, and that your wrists, elbows and shoulders are in line with each other. As you inhale, lift your chest toward the ceiling, press your belly toward the floor and lift your head. As you exhale, round your spine toward the ceiling and lower your head toward the floor.


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