Are you sitting up straight? It’s noticeable that when you start talking about posture how people visibly stop slumping! However, that hunched or slumped position quickly returns as you assume your normal seated position – causing all sorts of health problems.
Sitting for long periods of time is bad for your health. Whether it’s sitting at a desk all day or in the car, we’re not designed for this position. Unfortunately for most of us, it’s unavoidable. Chained to our laptops, compelled to spend hours sitting in meetings, driving to and from appointments and then slumped at the end of the day in front of the TV. Does that sound familiar?
An hour or two in the gym or pounding the pavements won’t rectify the damage either. While exercise is great for strengthening muscles to hold your body in the correct position, alarmingly studies have shown that the negative effects of long-term sitting are not reversible through exercise or other good habits.
Sitting is the new smoking
“Sitting is more dangerous than smoking, kills more people than HIV, and is more treacherous than parachuting. We are sitting ourselves to death.” Dr. James Levine – Mayo Clinic*
This may sound dramatic but it’s true. Sitting for prolonged periods, 2 hours or more, has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, metabolic syndrome and cancer; and a decrease in life expectancy. Australian researchers have suggested that sitting is more harmful than smoking, explaining that for every hour that you watch television after the age of twenty-five, your life expectancy decreases by 21.8 minutes. By comparison, smoking a single cigarette reduces one’s life expectancy by an estimated eleven minutes.
You probably weren’t expecting those kinds of health issues when you clicked on this blog post, were you?
Most clients who come to say me about issues related to sitting all day are looking for help addressing orthopaedic problems such as neck, shoulder and back pain. However, these are often the precursors to more serious problems and therefore should be seen as an important wake-up call.
Structural problems are often the start of a slippery slope as injury and pain prevent us from moving, exercising and trusting our bodies to perform. As a result, the common problems associated with sitting at a desk all day are not chronic back, neck, shoulder and hip pain but weight gain, diabetes, fatigue, poor circulation and weakened muscles. All contributing factors to metabolic disease.
So what can you do if you sit for a living?
The simple answer is to get moving and stop sitting all day. Easier said than done. But when faced with not only musculoskeletal conditions but also the threat of chronic disease, we do need to make the effort.
Below I outline a few ways you can lessen the burden on your physical health. For more detailed advice and insights grab a copy of Unlocked here.
Get a better chair
Most chairs, especially cushioned ones, create a dip at the back of the seat where you buttocks go. This results in your buttocks sinking lower than your knees and that’s the main reason the body slumps in a sitting position. Some high tech office chairs allow you to tilt the chair to prevent this dip so that your hips are slightly higher than your knees and your pelvis is tilted forward. But don’t tilt it too much or your body will overcompensate causing different issues.
Get a seat wedge
If you don’t have the tilt function in your chair, use the best chair you can get (with a firm, flat seat) and invest in a high-density foam seat wedge. This will raise your hips and create a gentle slope downwards to your knees. You can buy these online and from ABC™ centres. Watch the video below for a demonstration of how a seat wedge works.
Failing that, a rolled up towel or newspaper can be used – especially if you’re travelling and have left your seat wedge behind.
Learn where pelvis neutral is
Tilt your pelvis forwards as far as it can go, then tilt it backwards as far as it can go. The pelvis neutral position is the mid-point between these two extremes. If you have to sit, this is the optimum sitting position even when using a seat wedge.
Move around every 30 minutes
Get up off your butt and move! This is not only good for your spine but also for your eyesight, mood and energy levels. Spend 2-5 minutes moving around every 30 minutes. Many modern offices are now set up to encourage movement, such as by placing printers away from desks so you have to get up out of your seat to get a printout. You can also do a few simple exercises like squats, shoulder rolls and ladder climbs while you’re at it!
Get a standing desk
If you have to work at a desk, a standing desk is the best option as it’s the most active stationary position to be in (you use more muscles and joints standing than sitting). You’ll be less likely to stoop, will burn more calories (sitting expends about 300 calories over an eight-hour period, whereas standing for the same timeframe burns around 1,300 calories), and research shows that standing increases brain function. Make sure you’ve got your standing desk at the right height and you’re wearing suitable footwear. Don’t undo the benefits of standing by wearing a shoe with a heel unless it’s been recommended that you have a heel lift to correct your posture. Wear flats or better still, go barefoot!
Get your alignment corrected with ABC™
If you at a desk it’s fairly inevitable that you will have some issues with posture and alignment, even if you don’t have pain at this stage. Advanced Biostructural Correction™ can restore your alignment and reverse the damaging effects of sitting. You can then make a fresh start and practice good posture when sitting, as well as limiting the amount of sitting you do where possible. Learn more here.
I know that the lure of the sofa at the end of the working day is hard to resist, but sofas are bad for your health. Sitting in these soft chairs and reclining backwards reverses the natural curves of your spine and significantly worsens your mechanics, so these types of chairs are especially worth avoiding. Try sitting on the floor as an alternative – using the front of the sofa as a back support.
I know that for many people it’s really difficult to avoid sitting during the working day. But there may be a few other ways you can get out of your seat. For example, stand during your commute to and from work if you travel by bus or train or, better still, walk or cycle to work; eat lunch standing at the window counter in your favourite sandwich shop or coffee chain; suggest walking meetings with colleagues; and stand up when you take a phone call.
What works for you? Please leave a comment below if you have any suggestions for getting out your office chair and avoiding the chronic health problems mentioned above.
If you would like to learn more about my journey to better health, body alignment and performance, get Unlocked. I think you’ll find it an inspiring story of how you don’t have to ‘put up’ with pain and not feeling at your best just because you’re getting older or have suffered a sports injury, or work 10 hours days in the city. Get your copy here.
ABC™ can help with most body structure pains, problems and injuries. If you would like to discover if ABC™ can help you with your chronic pain, poor posture, injury or other structural health problem then the first step is to fill out our application form and we will be in touch asap to let you know if we can help and to schedule a consultation.
Now I’d like to hear from you. Are you suffering from the ill effects of prolonged sitting? What has or hasn’t worked from you in solving this modern health dilemma? Tell me in the comments below:)