The human physiology is one built for movement. We thrive in an upright position and moving helps with many of the body’s processes, it keeps our joints well oiled, food moving through our digestive tract and helps to keep our muscles in good working. However, modern life is rife with many daily habits that can wreak havoc on our health- sitting for long periods of time is one such habit and possibly the most pervasive.
A typical day for most people involves getting out of bed in the mornings, glugging down a coffee, sitting for an hour in a car to arrive at their work where they will typically spend a further 8 hours sitting at a desk, before returning to their car to sit for another hour while driving home. At home they will sit to eat dinner and then very possibly spend a further 2 hours in front of the T.V…SITTING!
Sitting for long periods negatively affects our posture, digestion, metabolism, our overall physiology and can cause headaches and create muscular imbalances. In addition those leading sedentary lives are twice as likely to develop diabetes or heart disease.
Long periods spent in a seated position on a regular basis can shorten muscles altering your natural gait and posture i.e. shorten the hamstrings, shorten the hip flexors both resulting in shortening of stride length. Not to mention our major stabilising muscles of the gluteals effectively go to sleep when we sit. In addition working on computers or at a desk in a seated position can tighten pectorals, weaken abdominals and muscles of the back, negatively affecting posture but also our potential for force generation. This in turn can have a negative effect on your form and technique when you do eventually get to the gym, possibly increasing your risk of injury, and certainly reducing the effectiveness and benefits of the exercise.
Suffer from low back pain? This too can be exacerbated by sitting for too long.
The fact of the matter is if you spend all day in a seated position the biomechanical changes that occur are so great that an hour of crossfit, gym, classes in the evening just isn’t going to cut it in relation to mitigating the risks associated and accumulating with your hours spent seated.
Much of this could be avoided if we reverted back to squatting instead of sitting – but that’s another post!! ?
What you can do about it…
It really is that simple. Schedule 5 minutes within every hour where you walk to the water cooler, or the bathroom and move for those 5 minutes. You will be more productive in the long run.
Take a 15 minute walk at lunch before you eat and try to avoid eating lunch at your desk!
Drink more water. This helps on a number of levels as maintaining optimum hydration reduces tautness in the muscles but mainly because the more you drink the more you will have to use the restroom therefore forcing you to move more!
Before you begin your gym session spend some time on mobilising muscles.
In the long term find a PT who is able to address the underlying issues of cumulative muscular imbalances caused by years of sitting. Together you can work towards a happier, healthier, more mobile and stable version of you.
Want more information?
Check out Sitting Kills, Moving Heals By Joan Verkinos Ph.D
Move and thrive ?
Naomi McArdle MSc