Sitting is the new disease and disorder because it is detrimental to your health, alignment, and movement. People of all ages are stricken by this disorder, ignoring and neglecting its detrimental impact and ramifications on their lives. We know that physical activity is great for improving health. However, if you compare the amount of time you sit versus physical activity, it is very unbalanced. And, from the past months of the CV19 lockdown, you might want to understand how sitting too much is bad for you.
First and foremost, sitting affects millions of people around the world:
- The corporate lifestyle sitting at a desk
- Driving in a car
- The couch watching television for hours
- Flying on a plane, etc.
Secondly, it is spreading more rampantly throughout our youthful generation:
- Playing gaming systems sitting hunched over for hours upon hours,
- The computer and telephone
- Addicted to social media sites
- Sitting 6 to 8 hours in school
A person sits an average of 6 to 10 hours a day at a desk or on a couch: and possibly more considering these past months. The excessive amounts of sitting slow down your metabolism and puts your health at risk for:
- Obesity and excess body fat
- An increase in cholesterol, blood pressure, and cardiovascular disease
- Hyperglycemia and type 2 Diabetes
Sitting too much is now considered a risk factor for diseases. A study done by Loughborough University and Leicester University with 800,000 people who sat for long periods throughout the day increased the risk of:
- Cardiovascular (CV) event 147%
- Diabetes 112%
- Death from a CV Event 90%
- Death 4%
Sitting, Misalignment, and Dysfunction
The classic pattern of misalignment for sitting is a posterior hip tilt (hips tiled back) and a rounded forward spine. What’s most important to know is that the position of your hip causes the spine to adjust, altering how your muscles and joints will stand, stabilize, and move. However, the alignment produced by the hip and spine links muscles and joints neurologically.
- When the hips tilt forward, the spine hyperextends, and this furthers the path of compensation down through the legs, knees, and ankles as well. It limits the mobility to lift the knee.
- When the hips tilt back, the spine rounds forward, limiting neck, shoulder, and arm mobility to a lesser degree of motion.
Over time, this leads to musculoskeletal disorders because the repetitive compensated movement is being imposed on poor alignment and structure.
- A rounded spine produces strain on the shoulder joints with overhead movements. These reaching movements, done just a few times a day, is all that is needed to exacerbate the shoulder joint. Over time, pain ensues, and you think you did nothing to hurt your shoulder. So, your doctor labels it as a musculoskeletal disorder. The cause is repetition on a poorly stabilized grinding shoulder joint. Align and stabilize the hip and spine, and the other joints will self-correct.
By sitting better, you can maintain proper alignment. Also, working on restorative functional movement helps preserve it. And, by sitting less, you become less prone to disease. You can refer to my book, The Balanced Body; by Jason Kelly, to understand more about restoring alignment to function better and move well. There are many exercises and routines in the book to restore functional movement and reverse the detrimental effects of sitting.
Tips for Sitting Better
- Avoid crossing your legs. It rotates one hip and can affect your leg length.
- When sitting on a chair, roll your pelvis forward. This will prop-up your spine and stop your spine from rounding, engaging your abdominals as well. If you roll the hips too much, it will put your spine into hyperextension.
- Use a post-it-note on your computer to automatically remind yourself to sit up straight to condition a positive habit.
- Use a chair that allows you to lean forward and move your legs freely. I like to use a stool or backless chair for the freedom to sit in different positions and for not depending on sitting back into a chair. Therefore, I need to consciously stabilize my body as I sit.
- Use a folded up thick towel or firm pillow and place it in your thoracic region just below the shoulder blades. It will not allow your thoracic spine to round and prop it up. Lumbar devices don’t work well because the lumbar is not the problem, it is the hip and spine creating the issue for the lumbar.
Ways to Avoid Sitting too Much
- Stand more often when watching TV or at work. Make it a point to get up every 15-20 minutes (3 to 4 times an hour). The most important thing is to get up as frequently as you can. You can alternate sitting and standing throughout your day to produce a balance.
- You can perform a small routine that requires movement. When you stand up, take a few minutes to do two to three exercises to counteract sittings detrimental effects. Lunges, Single-Leg Hamstring stretches, Spinal Hyperextension, are just a few that can help. This helps restore stability and wake-up muscles that turn off from sitting.
- BREATHE! Sitting makes you breathe shallow and rapidly. Take some deep breaths through your nose to reverse the shallow effects.
- Try to change your workstation to standing options and capability. Doing both is good. Remember, it is about balance.
- Stand if you take public transportation.
- When on the phone, stand-up.
- Walk instead of taking the car and use longer ways to walk.
Just because you work-out one or two hours a day and you sit the rest of the day does not mean you are active. Exercise only takes up a tiny portion of your day, about 30 minutes to two hours. That is simply not enough to balance the scales of sitting six to ten hours a day. Moving often about your day instead of sitting is now seen as far better for your health.
Think of things that you can do that require you to stand and move instead of using technology or something that requires you to be sedentary. For example, instead of ordering something online, go to the store and buy it. Try to remove the technology that has replaced your ability to go move and explore.
I feel the curiosity of exploring has been lost over the years because technology and modern-life have made us more sedentary, not only affecting our body but restructuring how we think, altering our mind and habits to become unwholesome.