A sedentary lifestyle can take a toll on your health, and while you may already be familiar with the strained neck and the achy shoulders and lower back, there is one more strange-sounding consequence to add to the list. A fairly common condition known as "Dead butt syndrome" can plague those who spend long periods of time on their tush, and while the name is hilarious, the side effects are not so funny. Dead butt syndrome, which is known by the less fun name Gluteal Amnesia, is fairly self-explanatory: your butt has been inactive for so long that the muscles forget how to function properly. If you go from sitting in front of the computer all day to parking your keister on a squishy couch in front of the TV at night, you too could be at risk of a dead or forgetful butt.
Hip mobility and flexibility along with strong gluteal muscles (the muscle group that makes up your lovely bum) help us maintain our balance and stability. Unfortunately, for chronic sitters hip flexor muscles can become short and tight over that eight hour work day, which, in turn, will affect the glutes through a process known as reciprocal inhibition. “Reciprocal inhibition occurs when tightness in one muscle [your hip flexors, in this case] creates length in the muscle on the opposite side of the joint [your gluteal muscles, or glutes],” exercise physiologist with the American Council on Exercise Pete McCall told SELF. This leads to your butt muscles becoming slackened and desensitized, not responding as they should when the time finally comes to "turn on."
Beyond the internet's obsession with Kim Kardashian and shapely bums, developing strong butt muscles can improve posture and athletic performance (almost every sport engages the glutes), and makes essential movements like lifting heavy objects, climbing stairs, sitting, walking, and standing easier. While lagging glute muscles and tight hip flexors may not seem like a big deal as they do not on their own cause any pain, dead butt syndrome puts people at risk of injury.
Weakened glutes can force surrounding muscles in the back and legs to compensate. The extra work leaves these muscles stressed, and can lead to issues ranging from pain and strain in hips, knees, and the lower back. Without the optimal use of the hip flexors and glutes, balance can be off, which can put you at risk of a sprained ankle or worse.
Before you rush off to wake up that butt with a light jog or bike ride around the park, this condition can affect runners and sedentary folks alike, so it seems no one is safe from a drowsy tush! Running and biking predominantly engages the quad muscles, and without glute-focussed exercises added to the workout, runners can also suffer from symptoms of gluteal amnesia. So how do you solve this issue, beyond perching on an exercise ball at work or purchasing a standing desk? Try and give your hip flexors a stretch each day and when you have a spare moment incorporate a few squats and walking lunges into your daily routine. Your butt will thank you!