Why sitting is wreaking havoc your body and how to fix it

by - 1:28 PM

No matter who you are, or what you do, you probably sit too much. When I say you, I am talking to myself as well. Just this morning, I sat in the car on my 20 minute ride to work, I sat to finish my cup of coffee before class, and I am sitting now writing this post.

Global studies show, on average, we sit 7.7 hours a day, and some results estimate people sit up to 15 hours a day. So on average we spend a third of our life sitting.  If we live to be 78, that is over 25 years sitting!  Chances are, that is 25 years of your life spent sitting in compromised positions in seats that were designed for comfort and aesthetics rather than function. And we wonder why we feel like a broken-down mess and experience back pain, neck pain, shoulder pain, etc.

Studies have shown that this wreaks havoc on our bodies in other ways as well. A study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine reported too much sitting is highly correlated with diabetes, cardiovascular disease and other prevalent chronic health problems. Other studies have shown that sitting greater than 3 hours per day can shave 2 years off one’s life expectancy. If so, what effect will 8-15 have? In an interview with the L.A. Times Dr. James Levine, a professor of medicine at Mayo Clinic and a world-renowned leader in obesity research, said, “Sitting is more dangerous than smoking, kills more people than HIV and is more treacherous than parachuting. We are sitting ourselves to death.”

Are you standing up yet?

Unfortunately, we can’t avoid sitting completely (unless you can then kudos to you).   So how do we avoid or reduce the consequences of sitting too long?

1. Avoid unnecessary sitting – It is true that we can’t avoid sitting all together, but much of our day is spent with non-essential sitting (watching TV, working at the computer, etc.). Cutting non-essential sitting out of your day may reduce your total sitting time per day by hours!

2. Take a break – one of the best ways to combat the evils of sitting is by taking a standing break every 15 minutes.  It is almost impossible to maintain a good position for longer than that.  Also, sitting more than 20 minutes in a poor position can cause damage to important tissues. See more about this here.

3. Learn how to sit – regardless of how much time you spend sitting, you should learn to sit in a position that does not compromise your structural integrity. That starts from the ground up:
  • Feet should be hip width apart, on the floor, and pointing straight ahead (if you sit with your feet in a bad position for 8 hrs, it will carry over into other activities).
  • Knees and hips should be bent to 90 degrees.
  • Your pelvis/low back should be neutral (not slumped or overly arched). Your shoulder blades should be set slightly back.
  • Elbows should be rested on an arm rest to give your neck muscles a break.
  • Ears should be in line with your shoulders. 
  • If working at a computer, the monitor should be just below eye level so you don’t have to compromise your sitting position to view it.
  • Your abs and pelvic floor should have some amount of tension at all times to maintain good position.

4. Combat effects of sitting – long periods of sitting typically results in tight hip flexors, excessively rounded shoulders and thoracic spine, a forward head posture, and glute and core muscles that do not function on an optimal level. One exercise to combat these effects is the half kneel hip flexor stretch.  You can see a demonstration of this in the video below.

For more information on exercise technique or tips on how to look, move, feel, or perform better contact me at jswilliams0659@gmail.com.

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1 Stand, Just. "The Facts: Sit-Stand Basics." The Facts About Sitting, Standing & Your Health. Accessed September 09, 2016. http://www.juststand.org/tabid/816/default.aspx.
2 Too much sitting: A Novel and Important predictor of chronic disease wrist. Accessed September 09, 2016. http://bjsm.bmj.ttcom/content/43/2/81.full  
3 Seidman, Andrew. "Sitting for More Than Three Hours a Day Cuts Life Expectancy." WSJ. 2012. Accessed September 09, 2016. http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052702303343404577516853567934264.
4 MacVean, Mary. Los Angeles Times. Accessed September 09, 2016. http://www.latimes.com/science/sciencenow/la-sci-sn-get-up-20140731-story.html.

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