Do you work at an office for 8 hours each day? Are you behind the wheel for prolonged distances without breaks? Do you find yourself sitting mesmerized in front of a screen for too long? Do you find yourself watching your favorite Netflix show episode after episode? You are not alone, as many individuals find themselves stuck to the chair. As recent technology has advanced in the past several decades, screen time has increased. Our society is spending more time sitting whether it be on the couch watching TV, at the computer browsing the internet, or stooped over scrolling through Instagram. Recent studies have linked prolonged sitting as a risk factor for many health concerns and even early death. Some of these conditions include obesity, high blood pressure, poor cholesterol levels and high blood sugars. When you sit, your body uses less energy as compared to when you move around. Your muscles begin to tighten and your blood flow slows. After a period of only 20 minutes, the muscles that hold the trunk and head upright fatigue making it more difficult to maintain an ideal posture. Poor posture can wreak havoc on our bodies and cause several preventable conditions such as shoulder impingement, thoracic outlet syndrome, headaches, cervical radiculopathy and back pain. Daily exercise can help balance the amount of inactivity someone may experience during the day, but some studies have shown that even 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise cannot reverse the negative health effects of prolonged sitting (greater than 6 hours per day).
For many of us, we cannot change our jobs, nor do we have complete control of our circumstances (such as traveling in an airplane or car). However, here are a few tips that will help decrease the toxic position of sitting:
- Take a break from sitting every 20-30 minutes.
- This can be as simple as standing up at your desk. Try marching in place or performing repeated overhead arm reaches with gentle backbends to loosen up your entire body.
- Take frequent walks at work.
- Try walking while eating lunch or talking on the phone. Schedule a business meeting with your coworker walking around the building versus sitting in the conference room.
- Use the furthest bathroom from your desk
- Park in the furthest parking space from the building
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
- Practice good sitting posture.
- Start in standing. Squeeze your bottom. Take a deep breath in through your diaphragm as you inhale and gentle pull your rib cage down as you exhale. Gently engage your abdominals. Set your head and shoulders back into a neutral position so that your ears, shoulders, pelvis, hips, knees and ankles are aligned with each other. Then sit down and try to maintain this braced neutral spine positioning.
- Reposition your sitting posture.
- It is impossible to maintain a perfect upright seated positioning for more than 20 minutes. You can lean forward or backward as long as you maintain a braced neutral spine.
- Try a standing desk.
- This will allow you to continue to get office work done with the flexibility of changing positions from standing to sitting.
- Maintain a neutral spine and good body alignment even while you are standing. Shift your weight from side to side or perform gentle heel – toe rocking to vary the pressure on your lower extremities. Even standing for too long can get tiring so make sure to change the position of the desk from standing to sitting frequently.
- If you are driving, take a break and stop every two hours.
- Take 5-10 minutes to get out of the vehicle and move around. Perform walking, marching, lunging and/or stretching activities out of the car. Switch drivers of possible so that you can vary your sitting positioning.
- Get off the couch during commercials.
- Perform chores in standing such as ironing or folding laundry. Stretch the muscles that are shortened in a seated position such as the hip flexors, hamstrings and calves.
- Ride a stationary bike while reading your favorite novel or watching the Packers beat the LA Rams.
- If you are flying, get up and use the bathroom or walk the aisle if allowed.
- Change your sitting position every 20 minutes by changing the angle of the back rest or use the tray table to lean forward
- Stand or walk while studying for your final exam.
- Frequently change positions while using your ipad or laptop i.e. stand, lay on your stomach, lunge in front of the desk
Our bodies were made to move. While we live in a society where individuals are sitting more than ever, there are ways that we can prevent the sitting disease from negatively affecting our life. Don’t let the chair rule your body – get in motion!