Plain and Simple - Get Up and Get Moving
Have you ever wondered why you continue to feel stiff, tight, or "stove-up" (hello, Georgians!) even though you stretch routinely, get regular massages, attend stretching based appointments?
Do you tend to work around aches and discomforts, even if they are minor, while enjoying your hobbies or taking care of necessities after a long day of work?
If you answered yes to either of these questions, then continue reading and learn more about why this may be.
If you answered no to either of these questions, then continue reading, learn more information, and pass this information on to a friend, family member, or colleague that may benefit from it.
I spent ten years of my life in Las Vegas, Nevada. This means two things:
I like odds and betting when they are in my favor.
I pronounce the second "A" of Nevada like the "A" in apple. The correct way I may add.
The second part has nothing to do with anything, but the first part leads me to bet that most of you reading this blog...
Are currently sitting.
Spend the majority of your day sitting.
For some of you, I just lost my bet many times of over.
For some of you, I bet correctly but only due to health conditions that limit your ability to stand or move.
For the majority of you, I bet correctly and came out on top because this is the actual story of what happens to most of us throughout our day - sitting, sitting, and more sitting.
Inherently, we have to sit during the day to get stuff done. Drive the car. Work at the computer. Eat a meal. Press SO much weight in the gym #gains. The list goes on.
How much time spent sitting however can directly affect the length of our muscles and how we are able to engage with our hobbies outside of the our day-to-day routine. The exact science behind the process of adaptive muscle lengthening and shortening is beyond the brevity of this blog. So, here is what you need to know and what actually occurs in muscle tissue that is maintained in lengthened or shortened positions.
"Changes in the length and extensibility of muscles are a major cause of movement dysfunction." (1)
"Changes in muscle length are also said to occur in people who habitually use their muscles in a shortened or lengthened range." (1)
"The adaptations of muscle length...appear to be very reversible." (1)
"...people must involve retraining normal movement, altering the task or structuring the environment so that the stimulus for normal muscle prevails." (1)
In laid back terms, muscles can become stiffer when maintained in shorter position, but regular movement and changing the position of these muscles can reduce that stiffness over time.
So what muscles typically become shorter and stiffer? Great question! You may be shocked but here is the common list:
Hamstrings (back of your thigh)
Hip flexors (front of your hip)
Pecs (chest muscles)
Not shocked? Makes sense. This is what most people complain about when it comes to tight muscles.
How does this list of shorter and stiffer muscles affect hobbies and potentially contribute to those minor aches and discomforts that you tend to "push through?" Another great question!
In short (full pun intended), short and stiff hamstrings can cause...
Increased rounding of your lower back and tuck your pelvis which can put more strain on your lumbar spine discs and muscles of your back. If golfing is your hobby, this may be a contributing factor to your lower back discomfort.
A literal pain in the butt for runners because hamstring length is needed for the leg that is moving forward before contacting the ground. Hello hamstring tendon problems.
Short and stiff hip flexors can cause...
Excessive need for lower back arching when attempting to reach your leg behind your body to kick a kickball or soccer ball. This can be a contributing factor to nagging lower back discomfort that appears after handing out a loss to the opposing team in your rec league game.
Excessive lower back arching when standing and hanging out with your friends and family leading to similar lower back discomfort.
Short and stiff pecs can cause:
Rounding of your shoulders and upper back which may be a contributing factor to your neck pain that occurs while reading your leisure time book, watching a movie, or teaching your child old how to play Chutes and Ladders for the umpteenth time.
The most important question still remains. What can be done to help reduce the effects of adaptive muscle shortening and subsequent stiffness?
The good news is that we live in an incredible time of options and information when it comes to mobility and flexibility exercises. You can find a lot of these exercises on social media if you search long enough.
Most of the social media accounts that I have seen do have helpful information, activities, and exercises that can make a big difference in how people move and function during their day...even @reachptatl...hint, hint.
The difficulty, however, is learning how and when to correctly implement these movements, having the necessary equipment, and finding the time to incorporate these movements into your already overwhelming schedule.
Thankfully, one of the easiest exercises to incorporate into your day that can make a huge difference is called:
GUGM - Get Up and Get Moving
Okay, okay, okay, this is not the actual name of an exercise, but the name says it all. GUGM is an easy and effective way to make changes to your muscle length and stiffness throughout the day in order to be able to enjoy your hobbies later with less overall discomfort...plain and simple.
Try adding more movement into your day and treat your body well. You deserve to feel great out there and enjoy what makes you the happiest version of yourself!
Dustin Lee PT, DPT
I recognize that to "get up and get moving" is not an option for every person depending on individual circumstances. In this case, I recommend movement in general, however that may look in your life. This can take the form of weight transfers/shifts in your wheelchair, rolling from side-to-side in your bed, transferring from the bed to the chair, or simply moving whatever you can to change your body position throughout the day.
(1) Herbert, R. (1988). The Passive Mechanical Properties of Muscle and Their Adaptations to Altered Patterns of Use. Australian Journal of Physiotherapy, 34(3), 141–149.