“Where were you when you learned your butt could die?” So asks Almie Rose in an Attn: blog post. My answer would be “right here in front of my screen, sitting on it.” The title of Almie’s article explains why she’s asking the question: “If you spend most of your day sitting down, you need to be aware of this weird health risk.” The risk she references is “gluteal amnesia” or “dead butt syndrome” (DBS). If you search for gluteal amnesia, an avalanche of stories and images and videos on DBS leap into existence before your eyes, and if you took time to read or view them all, your butt would be deader than the proverbial doornail.
So, what is it? If you sit too long, apparently, your butt muscles (the old gluteus maximus and others) forget how to “activate properly.” “When you get up to stretch,” Almie writes, “this isn’t only in an effort to minimize the risk of blood clots or weight gain, it’s to strengthen your butt’s muscle memory.” DBS can lead to back, hip, and ankle problems—your back especially because the back takes over the work your butt can’t remember how to do.
Who is most likely to suffer DBS? We Americans are because, according to ABC News, we “work more than anyone in the industrialized world” and we probably sit at desks more, sit in cars driving to work more, and sit on the couch binging more than anyone else, too. This is quite an accomplishment. We should get some recognition for it or perhaps even a butt-for prize of some sort. We already have competition, of course, because people have been getting recognized for sitting in various ways for some time now. The record, for instance, for the most people sitting in one chair is 2,067 (right?). There’s also feats that involve crushing the most nuts by sitting, skipping rope while sitting, and the farthest basketball shot made while sitting on the court.
But I digress (again). DBS occurs through a process called reciprocal inhibition. Translated, this means the neurons in your GM forget how to fire their signal to the muscles and thus “move your butt.” Fortunately for us there are ways to prevent this. Maintaining proper posture while you sit helps. Getting up is another (doh!). Getting up and “tucking” your tailbone and “flexing” your glutes five times for ten repetitions is even better, as is doing squats or lunges. FYI, I typed “lunches” there instead of “lunges” initially. My Freudian slip is showing. Although, now that I think about it, to have lunch I would have to activate my glutes, stand up, and move to the kitchen. To better fend off DBS, I could do some butt clenches along the way. This might look, I realize, like someone trying to get to the bathroom before an explosive event of an undesirable nature happens. But what the heck. I’m willing to risk a little embarrassment to avoid my rear end.