Stand up! Sitting Strategies (For Air and Car Travel Too!)

My family will attest to the fact that you very rarely find me sitting down and when I do, it’s usually on the floor because I find that after about 20 minutes of sitting on the couch, my body is complaining.  We had a 2-hour meeting after hours at the gym last Friday and we all opted to sit on the floor and have our speaker stand to talk to us instead of sitting in chairs.  Airplane travel and conferences where I am forced to sit for extended periods of time are the worst for me.  Studies have shown that your spine is most challenge in the sitting position with 40 percent more pressure added to your spine compared to standing.

For some people, everyday is a day where periods of extended sitting are required.  Developing an awareness of strategies you can use while sitting is vitally important to surviving a long bout of sitting without pain.    Here are some key points:

  1. Create a strong pillar of support by maintaining neutral spine when you sit and keeping the muscles your trunk engaged.
  2. Create a secondary support by either sitting crossed leg in your chair or sitting in butterfly or frog position (soles of your shoes together, knees out to the side)
  3. Sit on the edge of your seat.  Ignore the backrests and armrests and stack your torso directly over the bones at the bottom of your pelvis.  You should have a 60/40 split between your hip bones and the soles of your feet.  This encourages you to stack your spine in a neutral position.
  4. Change positions as often as possible.  Check out the video I posted this week for some alternate positions.  Listen to your body, it will tell you when to shift.
  5. Get out of your chair to move around every 30 minutes or so.

When you HAVE to sit, here are the 8 best ways!

If sitting is the new smoking, sitting while traveling is the new heroin.  When you travel, you are often tied to someone else’s itinerary which means you don’t have the ability to get up and move when you would like, you also don’t get to pick the type of seat you sit in which means that it’s almost guaranteed not to fit your body. Combined, these things make travel even worse than your day to day sitting.  Fortunately, there are some strategies that you can use to make things better.


Air Travel:

  1. Choose an aisle seat – this makes it much less obnoxious for you to get up and take a walk down the aisle when it is clear.
  2. Use a lumbar support – A rolled up jacket at the base of your rib cage on your back is an excellent way to take that airplane seat that makes you feel like a hunch back and restore some length to your lumbar spine and get your back into a more neutral position.
  3. If you can’t get up, at least try to shift your position every 20 minutes or so - Do a mini bridge in your chair and squeeze your glutes, straighten out your legs, cross one leg under your thigh, bend forward and touch your toes, etc.  Shifting helps to keep your body from getting stiff.
  4. Bring a lacrosse ball and do some myofacial release – its amazing how many spots you can hit.  (check out this video for some options)
  5. Invest in a pair of compression socks or tights – Compression will help your circulatory and lymphatic system work better especially when you can’t get up and move around as often as you want.  Compression apparel will also help prevent swelling in the lower legs.
  6. Avoid dehydration with electrolyte enhanced water – Airplane travel dehydrates you, and even though it kills be to buy a $7 bottle of Smart water at the airport, I do because I would rather not feel like I’ve been mummified after a long flight.

Car Travel:


  1. Vary your seating position – When you are driving you can’t do much about staying in one position but you can use the controls on your seat to periodically adjust your seating position.  Play around with your back rest, lumbar support, and the tilt of your seat every 20 minutes to find as much of a new position as possible.
  2. Activate your muscles – At the gym we do an exercise called hooklying glute contractions where you lie on your back with your knees bent and activate your glutes without actually moving your pelvis.  You can do this in the seated position, you can also bend and straighten your legs (with cruise control on!) as well as do ankle circles and point and flex.
  3. Utilize the rest stops and gas stops for movement – Don’t just get out of the car and stand at the pump while you fill up. Stretch, move, do some joint mobility, take a walk.
  4. Use your steering wheel to get your shoulders in the right position – shift from 10:00 and 2:00 to 9:00 and 3:00 and use the steering wheel to slightly pinch your shoulder blades together.  Organizing your shoulders into the right position will not only improve your shoulders but also your mid back and neck.


Post Travel


I am a huge advocate of joint mobility post travel.  It is the best way for me to break up the stiff chair-bound muscles and gently get my body back moving.  Need some ideas for joint mobility?  Check out these 5 minute recharges

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