The best exercise for relieving pain caused by too much sitting

Sitting all day is bad for your health. It’s been linked to almost every chronic disease imaginable.

As a result, a lot of recent research has focused on how to undo the damage. Moving more may help, but some research indicates that high levels of sitting are related to higher rates of heart disease and cancer, regardless of how active you are otherwise. Taking breaks every 20-30 minutes has become a standard recommendation to avoid spending hours of uninterrupted time sitting in the first place. Even a 5-minute walk can counteract some of the negative effects.

Yet sitting can also cause shorter-term problems, like aches and pain in your legs, hips, and lower back. Being in a seated position all day causes certain muscles, like your glutes, to get shorter, tighter, and weaker. They can even become flaccid, leading other muscles, like your hip flexors, to become overactive and strained. Injuries become more likely. Pain often ensues.

Again, avoiding sitting for hours on end is the best solution. But old habits are hard to break and, if you’ve already spent most of your life sitting, this isn’t really an option.

THE EXERCISE YOU NEED TO START DOING

If you’ve been sedentary for a long time now, getting started with any amount of physical activity or movement is a good idea. Walking more, stretching, yoga or foam rolling, are all good options.

But perhaps the single best thing you can do is glute bridges. Glute bridges are phenomenal for reversing the damage because they open your hips and stimulate glute function. They’re a one-stop-shop for long-time sitters.

HOW TO DO THEM RIGHT

To get into the starting position, lie down on your back with your feet shoulder-width apart and your knees bent. To begin, draw in your belly button while contracting your glutes. Slowly push your heels into the ground while lifting your pelvis off the floor. Your knees, hips and shoulders should make a straight line. (For a visual, go here.)

Pause for a few seconds in this top position and then slowly lower your body back down. Perform this exercise for 2 sets of 12- 15 repetitions, taking a break between sets if necessary.

A good second variation to try is doing the same exercise but this time with your feet together and knees just slightly apart. This variation allows for greater hip extension and abduction, helping to extend the hips and recruit more force from the glutes.

The glute bridge is a great warm-up exercise that you can do before walking, running or working out. You can also give it a try whenever you’ve been sitting for a long time and feel pain or tightness in your legs and lower back.