Having a desk job, sitting all day, is generally very unhealthy – not just for equestrians. That’s because our bodies weren’t made for sitting.
“Sitting is the new smoking.” Fitness coach Marcel Andrä is on point with this statement. He explains what he means with this simple example:
- Someone has a classic desk job and starts their day having breakfast while SITTING.
- They drive their car to work, SITTING.
- At work, they are SITTING at their desk.
- Then they drive home, SITTING and spend the evening SITTING on the couch.
- And even if they were to go ride in the evening, they’d be SITTING on the horse.
“We are sitting for most of the day; monotony is the norm. But that changes our musculature. The thigh muscles shorten, and the iliopsoas and hip flexors adapt. This can lead to associated injuries and complaints such as back pain as well as pain in the shoulder or neck area. Stress is a compounding factor because it increases tension in the body.
We Try to Overcompensate for our Everyday Posture in the Saddle
In the saddle, we put extra effort into sitting tall and being flexible. However, this often accomplishes the exact opposite. The fitness coach explains: “When trying to overcompensate for our – unhealthy – everyday posture in the saddle, we often hollow the back. And that means the spine is no longer able to optimally absorb the motion. In a worst-case scenario, the riding lesson causes back pain or pain in the neck and shoulder area.”
The horse gets a warm-up before training. The rider should do the same, ideally not only right before mounting. Marcel Andrä emphasizes: “Regular exercise is very important. “And as a matter of principle, we should work physical activity into our every-day lives. Use the stairs instead of the elevator and intentionally park your car a bit further away to add a few extra minutes of walking. At work, we can take regular breaks from sitting: get up frequently and move around, stretch a few times, and perhaps take a walk during our lunch break.”
The best Stretch for Dressage Riders!
Even if you occasionally don’t have time for your regular workout routine or exercise, at least try to do this hip flexor stretch – ideally 2-3 times a day.
This exercise improves the flexibility of your hips. You will be able to follow the horse’s motion better and sit noticeably deeper and quieter in the saddle, thereby preventing backpain.