Exercises to Combat Extended Periods of Sitting

Help fight back and neck pain, muscle tension and poor circulation with these easy Pilates-inspired stretches and exercises.

Ellie Houston | December 01, 2016

  • Back Lunge/Glute Stretch

    Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Lift your right leg and lunge backward, bending both knees to 90 degrees. Shift your weight onto your left leg and bring your right knee to your chest as you return to standing, balancing on your left leg. Lift your right ankle toward your chest, bringing your right shin as close to horizontal as possible, stretching the glute and piriformis in the right leg. Repeat on both sides. 

    Benefits: This exercise increases circulation and stretches your glutes and piriformis muscles that are chronically shortened during long periods of sitting. 

  • Roll-Ups With Forward Fold

    Lie flat on your back, with your arms stretched overhead. Inhale slowly as you roll up one vertebra at a time, articulating the spine as you rise. Once you are fully upright with your shoulders over your hips, fold forward, reaching for your toes, and exhale completely and draw in from your core. Inhale to rise back to an upright seated position, exhale, scoop your belly and round your back to roll down one vertebra at a time. 

    Benefits: This exercise stretches your erector spinae and hamstring muscles that compress during long periods of travel and increases circulation and spinal mobility.

  • Supine Ab Carousel

    Lie on your back with your chest and shoulders lifted and your hands clasped behind your head. Lift your legs to 90 degrees and rotate your toes externally. Exhale your lower legs to 45 degrees (or lower, as long as you can maintain a neutral spine), inhale pulling your heels in toward your hips, and spread your knees in a reverse frog kick. Send your legs back up to 90 degrees and squeeze your inner thighs together as you extend upward.  

    Benefits: Elevating your legs increases circulation to the heart and prevents blood from pooling in the legs during long flights. Core engagement prevents low and midback compression and soreness from long periods of sitting. 

  • Twister Walkout

    Stand with your left leg crossed in front of your right leg. Inhale, arms overhead, hold and fold forward as you exhale. Place your hands on the floor in front of your feet and slowly walk out to the twisted plank position. Hold for two breaths, then walk your hands back in toward your feet, keeping your legs straight. Roll up to standing, and repeat on both sides. 

    Benefits: The twister walkout stretches the IT band and erector spinae muscles that get compressed with long periods of sitting in transit.

  • Wall Squats With Isometric Leg Compression

    Stand with your back to a wall. Press your back flat against the wall and walk your feet 18 inches away from the wall as you bend your knees and slide your torso down the wall into a supported sitting position. Draw your bellybutton in toward your spine to engage your core and relax your legs. Pause to inhale, then exhale while squeezing all the muscles in your legs as tight as you can until your lungs are completely empty. Inhale and relax your legs. Repeat five times. 

    Benefits: Squeezing the muscles without shortening or lengthening them (isometric compression) promotes circulation to and from the extremities by shunting old deoxygenated blood from the muscles and bringing in freshly circulated blood from the heart. 

    Ellie Houston is the Director of Fitness at Pilates ProWorks. Learn more about Pilates ProWorks here.