Klang Valley’s worsening traffic jams and what it does to our bodies – here’s what to do about it

A hot topic these days are how bad traffic has gotten over the past month or so. There are lots of reasons why this is happening – more reopening of the economy with no more negative lists and restrictions in businesses allowed to operate, Raya open houses, full reopening of schools, and more businesses ending their work from home policies.

Recently I spent a total of 6 hours on the road, travelling across the Klang Valley from Shah Alam to Subang to Cheras and back for various appointments. The next day, my knees started feeling a little funny going down stairs and I felt a general stiffness in my leg muscles.

You see, the human body isn’t really made to be in a sitting position for a long period of time. This is why you’re always advised to get up, stretch and walk around every half an hour if you’re at a desk job.

But driving a car can be a lot worse than a desk job. You’re further restricted to be in a certain position because of the steering wheel and pedal positions. And you certainly can’t stand up to walk around if you’re stuck in a 1-2 hour traffic jam can you?

Stuck in a sitting position for a long time crushes your hamstring (back of your thigh) and glute (butt) muscles under the full weight of your body. Your hip flexor (muscle that pulls your leg up at the hip joint) muscle also gets tight because it’s in a contracted position for a long time.

There is such a thing called “dead butt syndrome” or “gluteal amnesia” where your butt muscles weaken because you’re always sitting down. Your body basically forgets what their purpose are and how to use them.

Your glutes are supposed to be big and strong to help support your posture and when they’re taken out of play, you lose an important support pillar, and the result can be all kinds of pains and aches here and there – in your knees, and in your lower back.

We all know how many Malaysians have issues in their knees and backs right? This is because we sit all the way to the office in the traffic jam, and then we continue to sit at our desks and sit in the traffic jam all the way home again.

If you spend hours in traffic everyday like me, it would be a good idea to do some exercises everyday to counter the effects of being in a sitting position for extended periods. It would be really beneficial for you to do them even if you’re not a gym rat so you won’t be affected by “dead butt syndrome”.

You can do either one of these two exercises in these videos I have embedded. They will help strengthen your weakened glutes, and isolate them to do some work to remind your body that they exist.

Choose whichever you feel more comfortable doing. I prefer the single leg hip thrust as I prefer it to lying flat on the floor. I use the couch at my office as the place to anchor the middle of my back. Just do 3 sets of up to 10 reps each, per side. It’s okay if you cannot do 10 when you start off, just keep going at it.

This is a good simple way to start if you don’t have much time in your day, as it’s only 3 sets of one exercise and shouldn’t take too much time. If you’re interested to progress further, then you can start looking for a personal trainer to get professional advice.

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