The implications of sitting all the time

Fall has brought us back to the daily grind: schoolwork, jobs, etc. We thought this would be the perfect time to delve into what has been coined the new smoking sitting.

We all know now that it’s bad for us. But why? What is it about sitting on a deeper level that causes harm?

Why is sitting so bad for your health?

“When we sit, we’re shortening our hip flexors. These are generally already tight on most people. Prime candidates are anyone who has a “desk job,” avid cyclists, (avid cyclists with desk jobs), hockey players, sedentary or inactive people. All these activities involve constant flexion at the hip. When hip flexors shorten, our hamstrings tighten which then can lead to shutting off our glutes. Sitting all the time shuts down our glutes (they have nothing to do) and our hamstrings take on too much work. Our glutes and hamstrings should work together to execute various movements, but weak glutes can lead to our hamstrings doing more work than they should, which can cause injury; most notably hamstring tightness, strains (“pulled hammy”) and knee pain.

Tight hip flexors can also lead to low back pain as they are attached to the pelvis and spine. There are five muscles that comprise the “hip flexors.” Two of them attach to the spine: the psoas and the iliacus.

In simple terms, the combo of hip tightness along with lack of hip mobility will most often cause pulling on the spine, thus leading to back pain.

Moral of the story, stretch your hip flexors, do hip mobility exercises and strengthen your glutes.” –Kris

 

“Sitting uses less energy than standing. This is obviously linked to weight gain, and maybe less obviously, diabetes and heart disease. Standing may also encourage better posture than sitting, if you are standing correctly. Why is posture important? Posture, or your natural alignment, is essentially an indicator of your structural integrity. When we have poor posture, it’s the human equivalent of a building leaning over.

Sitting also impacts breathing and circulation: the more we are moving, standing, and opening up our posture, the easier it is for the natural processes within lungs and other organs to happen properly.” –Leanne Murphy

“I got a sit-to-stand desk 2 months ago and my back and hip pain have decreased significantly. I always thought that working out 4-6 days a week was enough and didn’t realize the impact sitting was having on my health. I make sure that I stand for at leas half my day, move around as often as I can, do yoga at least once/week (Yoga with Jolene 12:15pm on Friday’s at PUSH), and make my workouts a priority.” – Matt Cyr, MSpaceCreative

 

For many people today, our jobs require a lot of desk work. Here are some suggestions for how to make that better.

How to avoid letting sitting negatively impact your health:

  • Make a point to get up every hour and change position/stretch/drink water.  Set an alarm hourly!
  • Check your work station – are you looking up or down at your screen? Are you reaching? Get an ergonomic assessment to ensure your setup is right for you
  • Invest in a sit stand desk, and use it!
  • Be cognisant of how you sit. Our bodies will naturally favour the path of least resistance, but that’s not necessarily the best plan for your health.
  • Try to focus on sitting with your feet on the ground, and in a straight up position.
  • If you’re cycling to work (and then have a sit-down job), take 10 minutes to stretch before you sit down at your desk

 

These tips will help improve your health, but certainly does not replace physical exercise. They are additive benefits, part of an overall effort to maintain and improve your health.