Do you suffer from back, knee, ankle or foot pain? Have you been to see doctors, chiropractors, osteopaths, orthotics specialists and, despite their best efforts, you’re still in pain?
What if I suggested some of these issues could be righted by strengthening your glutes? I first came across this connection in Dr Rangan Chatterjee’s book “The Four Pillar Plan” (called How To Make Disease Disappear in the US) and it totally changed my thinking about back pain. I don’t suffer from chronic back pain, but I do work a desk job and sitting for long periods of time weakens the glutes and shortens the hamstrings. And unless you’re super vigilant about your posture and the setup of your desk, it’s very likely you won’t be sitting in the best position to keep your body aligned.
So what to do? If your job involves long periods of sitting, the best thing you can do is get up and walk around every now and again. You might not be able to walk away from your desk but even walking around behind your desk, stretching out your hips, stretching your hamstrings and (if you can) maybe doing a few jumping jacks will ease you out of that stiff feeling and get your circulation flowing. Maybe you can encourage your colleagues to get on board too, if you’re all doing jumping jacks or walking around the office you don’t need worry about getting strange looks. Though to be fair, better health might be worth a few strange looks – I’ll let you decide.
If you haven’t ever given this much thought it may be worthwhile have a few sessions with an osteopath or chiropractor to make sure your body is in alignment. Speak to your employer about having a work station assessment to make sure your desk is as comfortable as possible, and investigate the possibility of a stand up desk (one that you can change from standing to sitting works best as stationary standing for long periods of time is no better than stationary sitting), also look into the possibility of sitting on a Swiss Ball at your desk (you might need to get the okay from your Health & Safety people for this one) – the instability means your entire core is getting a workout and it will do wonders for your posture. Plus you’ve got instant access to fitness equipment for a quick lunch time routine.
So strengthening your glues – what to do? Some things you can do at work (once you’ve stretched out your hips and hamstrings) are bodyweight squats, walking up the stairs (taking them 2 at a time if you can – build up to this if you find it difficult), hip bridges (you can use your Swiss ball for this, or just do it on the ground), rising up on your tiptoes as high as you can, squeeze your glutes at the top and lower back down, releasing the glutes when your heels are back on the floor. There’s also a wealth of easy glute exercises available on YouTube. Look for short, easy to do, 5 minute exercises you don’t want to be building up too much of a sweat at work.
If you can, get outdoors for a walk at lunchtime – if you have a park or woodland near where you work you are so lucky, make the most of it! Take a 20 minute walk if possible, though any walk is better than none if you’re not in the habit of walking regularly. Walking gives you time to reflect on your morning, gives you some quiet time to yourself, you can do a walking meditation. Alternatively you might want to start a lunchtime walking group and get to know your colleagues a bit more, build your connections and strengthen team spirit.
Most importantly… engage your glutes and your abs as you walk. It might not feel like much at the time but done regularly your glutes and abs will get stronger, resulting in better posture and less pain. Oh, and you know that way when you sit down and you’re belly looks like it’s grown a few inches? Turns out this could be related to poor glute strength too – so come on, get working on those poor neglected glutes. Improved health, a toned butt, what’s not to love here?!
And if all that isn’t enough to motivate you, check out the picture (found on Pinterest) – numb bum, numb brain; your boss isn’t going to be happy with that…