It comes at no surprise that lengthy periods of sitting impacts your body negatively. It’s particularly detrimental to your core, a group of muscles that include the transversus abdominus, obliques, rectus abdominis, erector spinae, gluteus maximus and the diaphragm. If you spend a significant portion of your day sitting, find ways to sneak in core exercises — including those for the abs — to keep your trunk strong and flexible.
The Core Effects of Sitting
While you’re standing or sitting up straight, your ab muscles work to keep you upright. Chances are, however, that you don’t employ perfect posture during an eight-hour shift. Slouching in a chair means your abs go unused, which, when combined with tight back muscles, can cause hyperlordosis, an over-exaggeration of the spine’s natural arch.
Too much time sitting also affects your hips, particularly your hip flexors, as they tighten and become less flexible. This limits their range of motion and your stride length. A lot of sitting softens your glutes, which affects your stability and ability to push off as you walk or run.
It also hurts your lumbar disks, as sitting a long time puts uneven pressure on the disks. As a result, collagen hardens around the tendons and ligaments, creating an inflexible spine.
1. Twist Away
Grab a full water bottle — you can drink it afterward to stay hydrated — and hold it at chest level. Keep your knees and hips pointed forward, and slowly twist your upper half to the left. Go as far as you can while still being comfortable; your abs should contract as you’re going. Twist back to the center, and then repeat on the right. Repeat the move 10 times.
Don’t force your body to go farther than comfortable, or you could injure your back.
2. The Wheelie
If you have a desk chair with wheels, position yourself an arm’s length from the desk’s edge. Hold onto the edge lightly with your hands. To engage your core, lift your feet a few inches off the floor, and slowly pull yourself toward the desk until your chest touches the edge. Keeping your legs lifted and your core engaged, roll your chair back by pushing away from the desk. Repeat 20 times.
3. Crunch Time
Don’t get on the floor for these crunches — those aren’t the top exercise to work your core anyway. Instead, sit up straight and push your shoulders back. Contract your abdominal muscles by pulling your belly button in toward your spine. Hold for 10 to 15 seconds and release. Repeat 10 to 15 times.
4. Wobble All Day Long
For the most passive way to engage your core at work, sit on an exercise ball or a backless stool. This forces your core to work harder to keep your body steady. Try your hardest to sit up straight, and keep your feet flat on the floor in front of you so you don’t wobble off the ball.