Butt Stuff 🍑: Founder of health movement warns students about Dormant Butt Syndrome

Stop sitting! The Chair-Free Project is leading an effort to get students to avoid sitting. (Olivia Stenger/The Daily Campus)

The founder of health movement the Chair-Free Project gives University of Connecticut students 10 ways to avoid hours of sitting, which can lead to various health problems including Dormant Butt Syndrome.

Kathleen Hale, an entrepreneur and businesswoman, is the founder of both the Chair-Free Project and Rebel Desk. The Chair-Free Project is an effort to get people standing, walking and moving instead of sitting in chairs, Hale said. Rebel Desk designs and sells treadmill desks and adjustable-height desks to help people be more active while working, according to their website.

“You want to avoid getting into a negative cycle of inactivity,” Hale said. “When you sit for long periods of time, your glute muscles are not being worked and therefore getting weaker.”

Hale recommends10 tips to work against Dormant Butt Syndrome: sit and stand intermittently, use apps such as Stand Up! and Stand App to remind yourself to be active, walk while you study, look up from your work, keep your shoulders back, mix up your environment, breathe deeply to wake yourself up, get moving during a study break, sit on your floor and stand during class.

While Dormant Butt Syndrome is a new phrase, the problems associated with sitting and being sedentary have been researched for decades.
— Kathleen Hale

Hale said that hip flexors become tight from sitting with your body a right angle, as most people do in chairs. Even if you exercise after sitting for a long period of time, these weak and tight muscles hold you back and “make it more likely the exercise will be uncomfortable or lead to injury.”

The term Dormant Butt Syndrome is credited to Chris Kolba (PT, PhD, MHS), a physical therapist at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. He first began writing about it in spring of 2016, Hale said.

“While Dormant Butt Syndrome is a new phrase, the problems associated with sitting and being sedentary have been researched for decades,” Hale said. She said that one of the earliest researchers on this particular issue was London scientist Jerry Morris.

In 1949, Hale said Morris decided to study heart attack rates in people of different professions and wondered if activity levels impacted heart health. He found that the drivers of double-decker buses suffered heart attacks at an alarmingly higher rate than the conductors of the buses.

The main difference between these two jobs is the amount and type of activity in their day; the drivers were sitting for nearly 90 percent of their day, while conductors climbed up and down the stairs and spent most of their day on their feet.

“Morris’ research was just the beginning of understanding that exercise can have significant health benefits,” Hale said. “Inactivity studies are a new field of research. Studies have found that regardless of the amount of time one spends exercising, the amount of activity can have negative consequences.”

Researchers are now taking a closer look at people classified as “active couch potatoes.” These are people who do exercise regularly but spend the other majority of their day being sedentary, Hale said.

First semester undecided major Nicholas Bray said that he finds Hale’s tips to avoid inactivity helpful.

“Walking while studying seems like a very good idea to me because it allows us to be more active and aware, which can aid in improving brain activity,” he said.

Megan Krementowski is associate life editor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at megan.krementowski@uconn.edu.