If you’d like me to read this blog post to you, click the play button on the audio player below 😉
There’s that moment…
Sure, your desk is a graveyard of (empty) coffee cups and used tissues from crying over your laptop, buuu-uuut, you finally cleared your inbox to zero, you’ve paid all your billz, your taxes are done.
For a brief shining moment, the world is perfect and you think to yourself “I am a badass.”
Then you stand up and #ouch.
Cue stiff, angry, hurty hips, which if they could talk, would sound like this.
Yep. Turns out, you are a badass…who’s been sitting for 8 straight hours and your hips don’t like it.
So let’s talk about it. Why does sitting kill your hips and what can you do about it?
Sure, there are hip stiffness exercises.
Many of which I advocate + love and if you want some ideas, you can drop your name + email in the box below and I’ll send you a PDF of them 😉
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Buuu-uuut, when it comes to addressing stiff, sore hips, a couple exercises or stretching isn’t always enough.
Why? Because, you might spend 5 minutes trying the exercises – or if you’re really good maybe an hour in the gym #legday – but that’s still only a fraction of how you use your body during your waking hours.
The truth is if you want healthy, happy hips (and let’s be honest, a healthy happy body!) it pays to think about what you’re doing the rest of the time.
For many of us that would be…sitting.
Don’t worry. I’m not going to lecture you about how sitting is the new smoking, why you need to throw out your chair, or why you should only sit in perfect upright posture.
That’s terrible advice and it doesn’t work.
Even if it did, it’s impressively unpractical, so you probably wouldn’t do it anyways.
That being said, sitting is one of the reasons why so many of us have stiff achy hips, so what’s going on and what can you do about it?
First, let’s talk about why your hips might feel like crap after you’ve sat at your desk all day or taken a long road trip.
1. You’ve locked your hips into one position for too long
The body doesn’t hate sitting. What it does hate is stillness.
When you hold any singular static position for several hours on end, your body sends you signals of discomfort as a way to say “Duuuu-uuuude, we’ve been here a while. Would you please change positions, so I can get some new stimulus?”
The problem is you might ignore these quieter signals, so eventually your body stops asking please and eventually sends a signal that sounds more like, “WTF man? Why are you still sitting here?! Staaappppp!”
The other reason why it feels sucky is because after a while you fall into your most common habitual patterns – aka compensation – where you use certain muscles and joints a lot and others nearly not at all and while I’ll spare you all the sciency talk, that = stiffness, weakness, and sometimes pain.
This is why it doesn’t matter if you sit in “perfect” posture all day long. The problem isn’t just your position. It’s how long you’ve been in the position.
Hoo-ooowever…position does matter to a degree, which brings me to point number 2.
2. Your car seat/desk chair is horribly designed
Have you see your average car seat or chair? They’re like mullets. An awkward situation that you can’t fully understand.
Here’s what makes them terrible.
They’re buckets. Low in the back of the seat. High in the front.
Sitting in a bucket locks your pelvis in a tucked position – compressing your lower back + jamming your hips into a weird position.
The end results are hips that don’t move well + weakness or imbalance around the joint, which translates to what most of us think of as stiffness or “old age” (even when we’re 35).
So, what can you do about it?
I want to be clear. Sitting in a bucket seat isn’t some horrible thing that’s going to erode your hip joints and permanently wreck you, because there are no bad positions. The issue really stems more staying in one position for too long – and some positions happen to feel ickier after a few hours.
With this in mind, if you know you’re going to be trapped sitting for a long period of time (think road trip or plane ride), then it pays to prop your seat to make it suck less.
This is where it can be beneficial to stick a wedge under your booty to unbucket the seat, because if you’re going to be trapped in a chair, it might as well be one where you can be at ease with your joints stacked in a good position.
This is also where it’s good if your feet can be on the ground some of the time,because you can use the floor as a base of support as opposed to hanging off your hip joints.
As a final note, here’s why I don’t advocate “sitting up straight” or jamming your back into erect posture.
A) If it feels unnatural or uncomfortable to be there, then it’s not good posture for you. It’s just another weird position that is going to make your body feel achy.
B) The moment you go to think about anything else, you’re going to forget to hold that position anyways, so the point is moot.
At that point, it’s better to use a prop or not worry about it all.
That being said, the real magic is in movement.
Moving more means your body gets to experience lots of stimulus. Different muscles get to engage. Your body becomes well adapted to handle lots of positions. Your hip joints get lubricated.
Everything feels better.
Let’s talk about what this looks like in real life.
If you have to sit a lot your new mantra should be “The next position is the best positon.”
This means sometimes…
Having your feet on the floor.
Sitting at the front of the chair.
Sitting at the back of the chair
Crossing your right leg over your left leg (and if you ALWAYS cross your right leg over your left, maybe try doing it the other way sometimes!)
Sitting on the floor (every single way you can imagine!)
…And so on.
My point is that sitting shouldn’t be comfortable for hours on end, because it’s static, so when it starts to feel icky change positions.
And better yet, get up and walk around sometimes.
That 5 or 10 minute stroll every hour can make the difference between feeling achy at the end of the day or feeling pretty okay. Not to mention, it promotes better overall health.
Which brings me to my final point.
For most of us this means practicing mobility exercises like the ones in the handout.
It might also means doing some strength and stability work (which I’ll cover another day) so your muscles can help support your joints, because weakness can = feelings of tightness and discomfort.
And finally, as I mentioned above, it means walking and moving more.
This isn’t rocket science, but life doesn’t exactly set us up for good hip health and when coupled it with terrible advice like “sit in this weird, uncomfortable upright positon like a miserable statue for 8 hours” it’s no wonder that our hips feel awful.
The good news is you don’t have to live with it.
Try implementing just ONE of the things I suggested above (seriously the PDF of exercises will take you 5 minutes) and see how you feel.
Small changes can make a big difference, but you won’t know what works for you until you try it.