Everyday Movements to Stay Supple

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Everyday Movements to Stay Supple

Depending on where you live, there may be certain times of year when you find yourself indoors more often than outdoors. And as you spend longer periods of time inside throughout the day, it is likely that you may also notice an increase in the amount of time you spend sedentary (often seated and relatively inactive).

Staying in a particular position for an extended period of time, whether it be, say, sitting at a desk, lying on a couch, or even standing at a desk, results in natural physical adaptations that take place in the body to make these repetitious or prolonged positions and movements easier. These changes occur at a microscopic level in the tissues but over time can yield very noticeable and uncomfortable results, such as tightness or stiffness in the muscles and joints. This is why it is so important to move your body more often.

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Our culture has taught us that designated exercise time is necessary in order to maintain good health, and, indeed, research has confirmed the benefits of dedicating a slot of time each day to working out. But what this research often does not address is the importance of how we spend the rest of our time awake. There is a saying that goes, “you cannot out-exercise a poor diet.” I propose a similar idea with regard to spending prolonged stretches of time without movement— namely, “you cannot out-exercise a sedentary lifestyle.”

Think about it: Out of a 24-hour day, sleep constitutes an essential and hopefully nonnegotiable seven to nine hours. For the remaining 15 or so hours, if one hour is spent moving, that means the other 14 hours are likely made up of, say, eight hours sitting at a desk working, two hours driving, two hours sitting for meals, and three hours relaxing on the couch. Collectively, that makes for a lot of sitting, and probably all spent in a similar way—with hips and knees hinged at 90 degrees, a minimal load on the feet, and most of our body weight resting on the pelvis.

You may be thinking that your lifestyle, with its work demands, required commutes, and other necessities, may not leave much space for “more exercise,” but that is not what I am proposing. Instead, I am suggesting that you consider how you can simply move more throughout the day. Can you stand at some point instead of sitting? If not, can you sit differently? Can you take the stairs instead of the elevator? Park further away in the parking lot? Walk to lunch instead of driving? Take a mobility break at your desk?

There are innumerable creative ways to break your typical routine and provide more movement for the body. Consider incorporating these simple movements throughout your day to increase blood flow, change your body’s angles, and keep your joints supple. 

Movements to stay supple

Seated hip stretch

• Sit at the front end of a chair and cross your right ankle up and over your left knee (in a figure “4” shape).

Seated hip stretch

• Sit tall in your spine as you inhale. Begin to hinge from the hips as you exhale and project the chest forward as if you are reaching past your shin.

• Hinge forward until you feel a stretch in the hip of your top leg. Hold this position for five long breaths in and out through the nose, then repeat on the other side.

Standing spinal flexion and extensionStanding spinal flexion and extension

• Stand up tall with your feet within hip-width distance apart and interlace your fingers in front of your chest.

• On an inhale, take your interlaced hands up over your head with the palms facing up, arching your back and looking up.

• As you exhale, bring the arms back down, only to shoulder height, outstretched in front of your chest with the palms facing out while you round your upper back as far from your outstretched arms as you can.

• Inhale as you move your hands back up overhead, and repeat both motions for four full rounds each.

Lying hip extensionLying hip extension

• Lie on your back with a rolled blanket beneath your hips so that your hips are slightly higher than your heart and your feet. The degree to which you can prop yourself up should be determined by the absence of pain in the lower back.

• Stay here for one to five minutes breathing in and out through the nose.

Want to learn more about exercising with diabetes? Read “Add Movement to Your Life,” “Picking the Right Activity to Meet Your Fitness Goals” and “Seven Ways to Have Fun Exercising.”

Laurel Dierking, MEd, NASM, 700-ERYT

Laurel Dierking, MEd, NASM, 700-ERYT

Laurel Dierking, MEd, NASM, 700-ERYT on social media

Dierking is a fitness and movement expert who specializes in Postural Restoration (PRI), strength and conditioning, yoga, and breathing training. She has extensive hands-on training and experience in the health and fitness industry, having worked for nine years in privately owned professional training facilities, yoga studios, and rehabilitation clinics. She is currently providing health and fitness guidance at The Fitness Studio in Pinehurst, North Carolina.

Dierking co-authored Bariatric Fitness: For Your New Life, a post-surgery book of mental coaching, strength training, stretching and cardio routines written by Julia Karlstad, and contributed articles for the Obesity Action Coalition Magazine for three years.

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