We've all heard about the dangers of sitting—even for regular exercisers, sitting eight-plus hours a day can lead to a higher mortality rate. But we're still sitting the majority of the time, whether it's while working, driving, or watching a movie. And that's a lot of time spent in one place.
"Holding any position for a long period of time can wear on your body, especially if you're sitting," says Alycea Ungaro, founder of Real Pilates. "Sitting puts your muscles in a short, contracted position, and your range of motion gets reduced."
We asked her for the most important stretches targeting the body's most affected areas—the back, shoulders, chest, legs, and feet—to counteract the strain and shortening of muscles. Ungaro recommends doing these exercises at the end of your normal workout cooldown. "This routine takes all of two minutes, and if you tether these moves to something you habitually do, there's a higher chance it'll stick and make a difference in your body." (Psst... Try this to Lower Your Risk of Death from Sitting in Two Minutes.)
A. Begin sitting with legs stretched out in front of body. Place hands on the mat behind you, palms back and fingers facing body.
B. Press hips up high, holding legs together. Keep head forward looking right down the center of legs. Lift chest up higher and higher.
C. Hold for 5 breaths or 10 seconds. Lower the hips with control. Repeat two more times.
A. Kneel on mat in an upright sitting position with legs together and feet underneath you.
B. Tuck toes under, bending them fully and stretching the soles of the feet. Place hands on thighs for added support. Sit and hold the position for 30 seconds. Work up to 2 minutes, continuing to lift in the chest and put increasingly more weight into the balls of the feet the longer you hold.
A. Kneel down and step one foot forward into a deep hip lunge. Place hands on your knees for stability and keep upper body upright.
B. Shift weight back, coming out of the stretch and then lunge back into it. Hold for 5 breaths or 10 seconds. Repeat 3 to 5 times, then switch sides..