The risks of sitting for a long time have well been established so far. It can raise the chances of developing heart disease, cancer, and diabetes, and it can eventually take years off your life. However, there’s one side effect that you may not have realized, and it has been linked to parking your behind in a desk chair all day.
Believe it or not, Americans are sitting for so long that their behinds are literally falling asleep. It’s called gluteal amnesia, or “dead butt syndrome”, and it’s a condition that occurs when your gluteus medius gets inflamed and “forgets” to function normally.
According to Donovan Green, a celebrity fitness trainer and author of No Excuses Fitness: The 30-Day Plan To Tone Your Body and Supercharge Your Health, sitting too long can restrict the blood flow and it can cause gluteal amnesia, which can lead to hip pain, lower back ache, and problems with the ankles. He also noted that the glutes will fail to fire properly even when performing exercises targeting the glutes.
Kelly Starrett is a physical therapist and founder of Stand Up Kids, and they said that your glutes are not designed to bear your weight for long periods, and spending a lot of time on your backside decreases the body’s ability to use its powerful gluteus muscles when they’re needed.
He added that the sustained flexed position of the hip and the compression of the tissues sets us up for the perfect storm of shutting down glute function, and it’s called the “dead butt”.
So, how to know if you’re developing the condition?
The primary source of the condition is inactivity. So, if you’re aware that you sit in your desk chair for hours each day, chances are that you’re increasing your risk.
Green said that your glutes shut down due to lack of activity and stimulus, and it causes strain on other muscles and joints as well and it produces an effect where weaker muscles have to do the job of the stronger gluteus maximus. If it is to be left untreated, this can lead to something called “synergistic dominance”, which means that the smaller muscles have taken over movement and they control the forces loaded on the hips, spine, and lower back.
Muscle tightness in the hips is also one of the major problems that can lead to “dead butt syndrome”.
The movement in the gluteus maximus is challenged if you don’t have the proper flexibility, and the muscle can’t access enough force to engage fully.
Jeff Bell, co-founder and master trainer of Belleon Body NYC says that the gluteus maximus was built for power and speed, and it needs to be “fed” with regular climbing, squatting, running, lunging, and walking in order to be kept in peak condition, and, of course, appear in top shape.
So, the best way to prevent dead butt syndrome is to keep yourself active and consume a healthy diet. If your job requires you to sit for prolonged periods of time, Bell recommends taking frequent breaks to stand up, stretch, walk around as much as you can and keep your posterior muscles active throughout the whole day.