It’s Thursday, which means there’s a good chance you’ve spent a lot of time seated in a chair this week; subsequently, you’re probably feeling a bit restless. Or worse, you’re feeling pain.
According to physical therapist Amy Selinger, who gave a TEDxUniversityofNevada talk in January, at least 80% of us will develop some kind of back pain during our lifetime, and at least 10% will have back pain that lasts three months or more.
It’s an especially frustrating statistic when you consider that it doesn’t have to be this way. Selinger notes that as babies, we instinctively do the right thing for our growing bodies: we squat. Squatting helps maintain flexibility and strength in our legs and pelvic floor.
Unfortunately, once we start school, we begin a pattern of movement that puts our bodies into jeopardy. We spend too much time seated in chairs, strengthening our spines while weakening the flexibility in our legs. As adults, we develop habits that limit our movement: We sleep on the same side of the bed, reach into our closets with the same arm or exercise using the same routine.
“We become stronger in the muscles that are already strong, better in the actions we are already good at,” Selinger says. “Instead of the variety of movements we had as young children we become adults who repeat movements.”
To help reverse these lifelong habits, Selinger recommends exercises that create harmony within our bodies. Instead of strengthening muscles that are already strong, she helps build up weaker muscles. This eventually helps those muscles communicate better with the brain to do the movement they’re asked to do.
She ends her talk with three pieces of practical advice to help readjust our bodies.
Engage your core: Reintroduce your brain to your abdominal muscles.
Increase your activity: Walk. Take the stairs. If possible, squat to reach low surfaces rather than bending over at your waist.
Vary your movements: If you have to sit, make sure you take standing breaks: 20 seconds every 20 minutes or one minute every hour.
There’s plenty of fascinating and practical information in Selinger’s talk you can watch below.