Office Chair

 

Why Sitting Causes Running Injuries and How to Avoid Them

 

Sitting for extended periods of time on a consistent basis, like at work or home (or both) could be the root cause of many running injuries that manifest themselves through running and any other fitness activities. According to Matt Fitzgerald in his book “Brain Training for Runners”, sitting causes major muscle imbalances whereby some muscles become extremely tight and others extremely weak. According to Fitzgerald and sportsinjurybulletin.com, these imbalances can cause pain in the lower back, reduce fitness performance, and promote injuries like runner’s knee and IT band syndrome among many others.

Our muscles work constantly to maintain balance with one another. To explain it simply, let’s use the bicep/triceps pair as an example. If you bend your arm to a 90 degree position you will notice that your bicep tightens while your triceps relax to allow that movement. Now relax and straighten your arm. Your bicep relaxes while your triceps tighten and contract to straighten your arm out. Now, take that example and apply it to every movement you make in your body. That same thing occurs while running and explains our natural disposition for movement.

Sitting causes only some muscles to contract or flex while never allowing the other balancing muscles to do anything. According to Fitzgerald and sportsinjurybulletin.com, the most common sign of muscle imbalance due to sitting a lot (which is nearly all of us) is weakness or tightness in the following muscle pairs: deep abdominal muscles and hip flexors, buttocks and hips, and hamstrings and quadriceps.

Furthermore, these signs of muscle imbalances can quickly transform into a number of injuries and running performance reducers including, but not limited to:

  • Abnormally tight hamstrings and hip flexors which don’t allow for the full range of motion required for an efficient stride (gait).
  • Tendonitis of the hip flexors due to tight hip flexors.
  • Patellorfemoral Pain Syndrome (Runner’s Knee) due to the lack of strength of the quadriceps and its inability to track your knee properly. The opposing muscle to the quadriceps is the hamstring which tightens while sitting.
  • Weak buttocks and outer hip muscles cause instability in the hips, knees and pelvis which can cause illiotibial band syndrome (IT Band Syndrome) among many other related hip and pelvis injuries.
  • Weak abdominal muscles, caused by sitting, allow the pelvis to tilt forward while running and can result in lower back pain and hip flexor tendonitis.

You can protect yourself from the punishing side effects of sitting by incorporating several beneficial habits, stretches, and strengthening activities into your daily routine

  • Correct Sitting Posture: Correct posture can almost alleviate all muscle imbalance issues caused by sitting. To initiate correct posture, place your monitor at eye level if at all possible. Avoid slouching to engage the abs. Keep your mouse close to your body and your feet comfortably flat on the floor. Also, make sure your chair has a high and straight back rest. Some people also use a physio-ball to achieve good posture.
  • Move Around: It’s very important to move around as often as possible. This software will help remind you to move around at certain time intervals. You should move around once every 20 to 30 minutes for at least 3 minutes at a time. Consequently, your legs will be refreshed by the influx of oxygenated blood and you will begin to feel more awake. Oh, and this will give your eyes and mind break, too.
  • Exercise Weak or Underused Muscles: Wherever you are most comfortable, do sit-ups, pushups and/or other various core related strength exercises just before lunch or during an extended break.
  • Stretch: Stretch out your hamstrings, hip flexors, shoulders, neck and back throughout the day. Here is a great website that illustrates some helpful stretches.
Problems with Sitting
  • Tightens hamstrings and hip flexors
  • Weakens glutes and hip muscles.
  • Weakens abdominal muscles.
  • Helps promote running and walking injuries.

 

Therapy
  • Correct Your Sitting Posture
  • Move Around Often
  • Exercise weak or underused muscles
  • Stretch