The common activity patterns of today’s corporate worker can lead to weak, inflexible muscles around the lower back and hips. Extended sitting combined with very little physical activity is a recipe for developing all sorts of musculoskeletal pain, discomfort, and dysfunction.
This week, I bring you an awesome stretch that will open up tight hips after a long day at the office.
Let’s face it, corporate working conditions are tough on the body. Although corporate workers aren’t typically lifting heavy objects or on their feet throughout the day, the sedentary nature of corporate work, travel and meetings can take a significant toll. Weight gain, muscular imbalance and cardiovascular issues are just a few of the many health conditions that can develop over years of corporate work.
This problem is not without a solution, however. Corporate workers, while challenged by schedule demands and physical inactivity, usually have enough autonomy and flexibility to “work in” some basic exercises throughout the day. Office-based training is not a replacement for cardiovascular and strength training, but it can be wonderfully beneficial in terms of countering the effects of extended sitting.
My favorite two categories of office exercise are flexibility and postural training. They can be performed in almost any office and are easy to do in work attire. They take only a few minutes, so they’re easy to fit in.
Postural training can sometimes intimidate people because they view it as somewhat clinical or therapeutic. The truth is, anyone can perform postural training with very little prior experience or training. It’s as simple as aligning one’s spine through mindfulness, throughout the day.
Good posture is about commitment and awareness more than anything else. The trouble is, most people lose that awareness and before they know it, their posture has slipped back into a slumped position.
Flexibility requires a little more know-how, but the main key is to stretch only to a point of mild discomfort and to hold that position for no more than 20 or 30 seconds. Following those two rules will ensure success most of the time, and then it’s just a matter of learning which stretches are appropriate for you.
This week’s exercise is a great stretch for the hips and hamstrings, which are two key areas that trouble corporate workers. The Hip Opener can be done anywhere, although it could be a little awkward in an open office. It’s probably best for those who have their own space.
1. Position yourself kneeling on a yoga mat with both knees bent.
2. Lift up the left foot and extend the left leg as far out in front of you as you can while keeping the leg straight.
3. Place both hands on the floor in front of you.
4. Lean the torso downward and press the hips forward allowing the left knee to bend and stretching the right hip flexor.
5. As you reach the end of your range, press back until the left leg is fully extended and you feel a stretch in the left hamstring.
6. Continue this dynamic stretch for 15 repetitions, then switch legs and repeat.
The Hip Opener is a stretch that requires a fair amount of baseline flexibility to get the leg fully extended in front of the body. If that position isn’t possible, I recommend keeping the knee bent. The key is to feel the mild discomfort in the hamstring and then hold that position, wherever that may be. Enjoy!
Matt Parrott has a doctorate in education (sport studies) and a master’s in kinesiology and is certified by the American College of Sports Medicine.