I don’t know about you, but I’m in the midst of finals and I’m going stir-crazy. I’ve been sitting for long periods to study and write papers, and I’m feeling stiff and cramped. Unfortunately for us students, sitting in chairs isn’t great for your physical health. The human body isn’t built to sit in chairs for long periods of time – it’s actually built to be in constant motion.
Spending lots of time seated leads to general muscle tightness in your entire body, but for most people, it’s worst in the lower back and hips. So this week, I’ve demonstrated a few stretches that are great for relieving tension in those areas.
Stretching is an important part of building muscle tone that is often overlooked. All muscles have an optimum length. If all you ever do is contract your muscles, through weightlifting and other forms of exercise, you actually shorten the muscle. This decreases your range of motion and makes the muscle less efficient, which is exactly the opposite of what you want! Relieving muscle tension is also a great way to reduce stress over all. Moral of the story: make sure you stretch every time you work out. And if your back is killing you, get up and stretch it out! Here’s how.
1. Runner’s lunge
Make sure your front leg is bent at a 90 degree angle, with your knee directly over your heel. Keep your back leg as straight as possible. The runner’s lunge is a great stretch for your hip flexors. The hip flexors are responsible for lifting your leg off the ground, but also for holding you upright in a seated position. This lunge also stretches your psoas, a very deep muscle that begins at your lumbar spine (lower back) and attaches up at the very top of your leg. It’s a long muscle, and one that tends to hold a lot of tension. When you feel lower back pain, it’s often caused by tightness in the psoas.
2. One-legged forward fold
Lengthen one leg out in front of you, bending your other knee and placing your foot next to the inner thigh of the lengthened leg. Sit up straight, and then fold over your lengthened leg, reaching for your foot. The slight twist in your lower back will release tight muscles there, even if you don’t feel a huge stretch. Plus, this will stretch out your hamstrings, which tend to get tight from lots of sitting.
Garnet is a student at Columbia University in New York City. She is “that person” who starts dancing at a party when everyone else is standing around, and if there were a Facebook stalking Olympics, she would be a gold medalist. She also loves cheesy 90s music, and almost died of happiness when Vanilla Ice retweeted her. Once. Follow her on Twitter @garnethenderson.