Sitting for long periods of time does a number of things on your body, none of them positive. The problem is that none of us ever imagined sitting could be so damaging.
Yet sitting is required in our jobs and there’s no way around it. Sure, we could get a standing desk, but how long will it take us to accommodate to it?
And yes, we could get up every half hour while sitting at our desk but how does that impact train of thought and flow? Are we willing to take a chance on this when a deadline is looming over us?
In this article, you’ll learn how sitting affects the large muscle groups of the leg. You’ll learn how your body silhouette is affected by the effects of sitting on these large muscle groups.
The Biggest Effect is To Decrease Muscle Loads
First, what comes to mind is that sitting takes off the loads on the ankle muscles, calves, thighs and gluteals.
You may already know what the effect of no loads on muscles and bones is from hearing about the astronauts. They go out to space in a no gravity environment and then come back to earth with lowered bone density and muscle atrophy. Atrophy is the withering of the muscles throughout their entire body.
You don’t have to be an astronaut to see similar effects in everyday life.
Let’s say you have a friend who breaks a femur or tibia or fibula. The leg is cast for several weeks. This inactivates the muscles that surround that bone. These muscles could still work but they are not allowed to work.
Any muscle in this position will lose its tone and weaken. But it also loses the response to the nerve impulses. No firing up of the muscles occurs; which means that the muscles aren’t getting any nerve impulses to contract and relax.
Whenever there’s little to no muscular movement and no external load on a muscle, the skeletal muscles will atrophy. This is especially true in the legs of the body.
Confirmed by a Bedrest Study
In one study, 10 healthy males volunteered to go on bed rest for 5 weeks. The researchers tested the strength and tone and function of the men’s lower body muscles before and after the bed rest.
At the end of the study, the extensor muscles of the gluteus, thigh and calf were visibly atrophied and their bones showed bone density loss, just in the five weeks of the study.
This study is similar to what happens when we sit all day long, and then come home to spend several more hours on the computer before going to bed for the night.
Our lives are essentially on ‘bedrest’ when there’s no load on the muscles and bones while we are sitting.
What Happens to Glutes When You Sit
Your gluteal muscles don’t move when you’re sitting. In fact, it’s entirely possible and probable that sitting at a desk job can cause gluteal muscle atrophy. The more weakened these muscles get, the more difficult it is to climb stairs or get up from your chair.
You may have noticed this yourself if you find it a bit difficult to rise from the toilet.
Gluteal muscles allow you to extend your trunk, extend your hip, and rotate your hip to the outside. They give your body leverage to move.
But remember – sitting equals unloaded position and over months, your gluteals aren’t getting the nerve impulses they could be getting.
If you decide to do something about the situation, you’ll find your glutes take longer to respond to activities such as lunges, squats, deadlifts and just moving in ways that activate them.
When sitting, the muscles around the glutes may have to take over for the glutes, and this will end up creating imbalances in the muscles and stress on the joints. The bottom line is that your lumbar spine ends up paying the price.
Sitting and Your Silhouette
Sitting affects how your glutes look as well. Once the gluteal muscles atrophy, the subcutaneous fat then gives your buttocks a sagging look.
Sagging butts always tip you off to the concept that the person’s glutes are not functioning properly – and this could be simply because they are sitting too much. This person may also have tight low back muscles, weak hip flexors and lower abdominal muscles, too.
One Australian health experts warns that sitting for long periods of time also stresses the hip flexors. This leads to shortening of the hip flexors, which then can lead to hip joint complications.
Having posture that’s optimal is always what you’re seeking, although you may not realize it. Optimal posture while standing. While sitting. And while lifting.
Optimal posture saves energy so you don’t fatigue as easily and makes your joints feel great. In optimal posture, your muscles are perfectly balanced so you have less risk of injury. And optimal posture causes your body to create the optimal length for muscles to potentially develop maximal tension (and load).
When your glutes work optimally, you can run, kick a ball, bend down, extend your trunk, flex your hips, bring your legs together, stand up straight, and point your toes to engage your hamstrings. You do all these actions without stressing out your lumbar spine and thus avoid low back pain.
Weak Glutes Affect Other Muscles, Too
In one study, weakened glutes were associated with ankle sprains. This is possible because once there are changes in the firing of muscles by the glutes, it causes muscle inhibition of other muscles. This association is frequently seen in basketball players that have low back pain.
Bones and muscles of our skeleton need to be moved. They need to be loaded daily with our body weight. Even if you have to sit all day, you HAVE TO find solutions for getting the muscle loading action going on.
Otherwise, you suffer and pay a price later that you really shouldn’t ever have to pay.
The good news is that muscles don’t have to stay inactive and atrophied for long. You can intervene in the process Starting loaded activity and keeping it up regularly is the solution and it will restore the muscles to their original shape, functional ability and strength.
And that means you look and feel great once again. You get your good silhouette back.