We designers love chairs, we obsess about them. We can talk all day long about what chairs you should want to buy, and clients work endless hours at computers and desks in order to fund said fabulous expensive perfect chairs. But what good is the greatest furniture ever if we are not healthy enough to enjoy it. It is time for all of us to get off our butts. There is a giant elephant in the room and it is probably sitting down. It has many names (if you have others please share below in the comments):
No matter what we call it, this topic needs to be addressed because too much sitting leads to numerous health issues. Most consider the mechanical breakdown of our bodies the four letter word part of growing older- but these issues are not age related, they are habit related, and they mostly circle back to the butt muscles- that we allow to atrophy. Today we will explore how to find out if this applies to you – and what you can do about it.
Because we need to get off our butts and talk about this… I have called in the expert as a guest contributor today. Meet Dallas based Mark Seebaran, a Toronto born uber-knowledgable trainer, health expert, public speaker and educator. One day when I was at the gym, I heard about a talk that he had given to a major corporation on this very topic. The employees liked it so much that the company decided to book him for more events and fly him around the country to spread the word on healthy living and work habits. And his public speaking took off from there. As entertaining and laugh-out-loud funny as Mark is, he was imparting knowledge in a way that was gentle enough to prevent me from getting the sinking feeling that he might just be referring to… ME (um, yeah, unfortunately) with what he was describing. Well, news flash, the world is his choir… all of the knee surgeries, back, shoulder, neck, hip and sciatic nerve issues we commonly assume are a natural part of aging –> point to this very issue. The problems also venture into soft tissue issues such as weight gain, obesity, diabetes, to name just a few. Fashionable butt sweaters and long flowy tops attempt to mask or camouflage the results of too much sitting. But this is all unnecessary- and fixable~ we need to bypass the issues with healthy habits of prevention. This topic addresses most of us, so
pull up a chair and hide your chair, stand up for a little Q&A with Mark Seebaran:
Let’s start with the real question: How do we get a lazy butt?
Have you ever stopped to consider the amount of time you spend Driving to work, Sitting before lunch, Sitting in car going to lunch, Sitting at lunch, Sitting at work after lunch, Sitting in traffic going home, Carpool lines, Sitting to watch kid’s sports teams or plays or whatever, Sitting at dinner, Sitting to watch tv, you fill in the rest. Readers, add up the estimated hours before continuing…and from here on, we will refer to the issue as “blogger butt”.
So what happens when we sit for prolonged periods?
- Sitting puts hip flexors in a shortened position
- …which causes the glutes to turn off (Dr. Stuart McGill, prof spine bio, U of Loo)
- The hip flexors become tight and cause anterior pelvic tilt
- The lower back paraspinals get placed in a shortened position and the rectus in a lengthened position
The glutes are the “engine” for our bodies. The engine that moves us. If the engine is turned off, other muscles that aren’t designed for moving us have to step up. This is where we begin to feel pain.
- The body the assumes this posture as the norm and we stay that way in standing positions …Enter: back, shoulder, neck pain; headaches; knee pain; sciatica
- Ultimately, this puts undo stress on your pelvis, SI joint and your entire spine. It becomes almost impossible to maintain a neutral spine all day…multiply that by 20-30 years and you have just created a lifetime of back related issues. (this is not sounding good….)
How do I know if this “Blogger Butt” business applies to me? Everyone stand up to do a little test. That’s you, reader….
A) Heels together, rotate feet outward like a duck and squeeze your butt.
- You should notice a very strong contraction
B) Relax. Now rotate feet inward so that your toes are touching and squeeze your butt.
- You will notice a much weaker contraction. Unless you have buns of steel. But no worries, you can fix this. Read on…
That weaker contraction is proof that your glutes are inhibited or “turned off” and a sure sign that you need to get your butt stronger. By the way, please feel free to stand at various times in the day and do 10 – 20 of those toe-in squeezes …perhaps one set every hour. (Mark- I think you have shamed us all into doing this…. I now automatically do this whenever I find myself standing in line or waiting to cross the street)
So, HOW can we go from Blogger Butt to Buns of Steel – says the person with a desk job:
Your body is designed for movement, but it isn’t easy to explain to coworkers that you have to leave every hour to lunge down the hall, so let’s examine a couple of other ways to address this:
- When the phone rings, stand up
- Get out of the seated position for 5 min or so, give your body a break
- Actually, this is a great time to do those toe-in butt squeezes
- Change your work positions throughout the day
- Try a kneeling chair for a bit
- or a Physio Ball
- Kneel on a foam pad that puts the pelvis straight and at just the right height
- You don’t have to use these everyday…rotate them out
What about after work?
- Best of all, get a massage! A professional one! Also, use of a foam roller can do wonders…just use it at home.
- Seek out a good trainer. One very important question to ask a trainer is if he/she is familiar with gluteal amnesia…This will help you narrow your search.
- There are simple exercises that can “wake” your butt up. Do 10 of each:
1) To ease the back pain, the quads and hip flexors must be re lengthened. (see below) This simple stretch can make them less “effective”, which then allows the glutes a chance to wake up. (Reciprocal inhibition)
2) Squeeze the cheeks as tight as you can while holding this stretch (10 seconds). (see photo below). Make two fists and start “punching” your butt. This palpation gets the nerves to start firing. Roll the spine up and squeeze those cheeks like crazy! Get right up on your shoulder blades
3) Kneel on all fours on a matt. Bend the leg, take the hamstrings out of it and really focus on that glute. Squeeze hard as you push the heel to the sky.
4) Mini band walks. Place band around your ankles with your feet pointed straight forward. Start with tension on the band and take 5 small lateral steps to the right, all the while keeping your legs straight and feet pointed forward without letting the band get slack. Take 5 steps back to the left. This exercise works the glute medius, one of the muscles that, when shut down, opens the door for issues like sciatica.
Thank you Mark for your expertise! You have inspired some serious butt revival and our buns of steel will thank you.
We will continue this conversation by addressing redesigning your workspace for healthier living. Most of the healthier furniture options give design a horrifically bad name, but I found some resources that make this topic worthwhile. We will also have two more experts weigh in to inspire us all toward better health in the workplace. Combine those two elements and you have healthier, fit employees in good looking offices- perfecto!
For more information on this topic: http://sbcoachescollege.com/articles/HamstringDominance.html and
Also, feel free to email Mark (beyondskillz (at) gmail.com) if you want to book him for a speaking engagement or learn more about some corrective movements or connect with him on Facebook.