If you think saying, "sitting is the new smoking," is alarmist, unscientific tripe, you need to spend more time reading health research. If that's not your speed, maybe you'll believe Mayo Clinic professor of medicine Dr. James Levine, who's told the world that sitting is more dangerous than smoking.
Either way, sitting too much is bad! As a sports medicine specialist, I can tell you there are other not-so-pleasant side effects when you set your bum in a chair for too many hours at a time. Sitting all day can cause things like neck pain, low back pain, knee pain, excess body fat around your middle, and poor flexibility in the legs and hips. At the young age of 30 you could find yourself feeling like an overweight, frail old person who's ready for a cane. Not a good look.
Fortunately, if you're someone who has to work a desk job, there's a super-simple exercise you can start doing right now to help counteract the negative effects of all that sitting. This exercise is the yoga squat, and all you have to do is take a few minutes to stand up from your desk every hour, and squat using the directions and picture guide below. Or even better, in addition to yoga squatting, also start taking short walks every hour to give your body a break from all that sitting.
How to yoga squat like a pro
1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart
2. Bend your knees and drop your hips toward the floor as if you were sitting in a chair. Go as low as you can, and keep your heels flat on the floor. Don't roll to the outer or inner edge of the foot while squatting. If your feet roll or your heels come up from the ground, you've gone too far and need to ease back up (at least for now). Keep in mind that over time, as your flexibility improves, you'll be able to dip lower and lower into a deeper squat without foot or heel issues.
3. Once you’re in a relatively comfortable and your lowest squatting position, bring your hands into heart center, prayer pose. Gently press the back of your upper arms (or your elbows) against the inner part of your knees. This encourages the hips to loosen up.
4. While in squatting position and prayer pose, keep your back as straight as possible (so you're not leaning over) and keep your gaze ahead of you. With time and daily practice your squatting posture will improve so much that you'll be able to keep your back upright and flat like you were leaning against a wall. At this point, you’ll be squatting like a pro!
If you start doing this a few times each day, you should start to feel more flexible and less creaky from sitting locked in one place all day. As for the long hours your boss makes you work, well, yoga squats probably won't help you with that.
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Dr. Phoenyx Austin, MD, is a certified sports medicine & nutrition specialist and the creator of women’s nutritional supplements for healthy hair and body. Find Dr. Phoenyx on her website and YouTube channel where she shares helpful tips on all things fitness, diet, and women's healthy lifestyle.