What are you doing whilst you are reading this article? Let me guess……… Sitting! Am I right? On average, adults spend over half of their waking hours sitting, at least 8 hours a day! Now you may not consider yourself a coach potato, in fact I’m not even suggesting you are, but let’s just take a look how many hours you might spend in the seated position.
We wake up, sit for breakfast, drive to work or the gym (sitting), we sit at a desk for 4 hours before heading off to lunch where we sit to eat, back to our desk for another 3 hours or so (sitting), drive home (sitting), eat dinner (sitting), watch TV or browse the Internet (sitting) before retiring to bed. You may have got in a great workout during the day so probably feel that all those hours seated have been mitigated by the blood, sweat and tears you put into that workout, but it doesn’t. Here’s the problem, our muscles learn by repetition so if at least half your day is spent seated then your muscles are learning this position over and above other postural traits.
One of the scariest things about chronic sitting is the way it begins to reprogram your entire body so your muscles and joints actually start begging you to sit. Continual sitting literally hijacks your muscles, lengthening some, shortening others causing a huge imbalance. This imbalance leads to poor posture, dysfunctional movement patterns and ultimately pain, discomfort, back pain and a higher risk of injury.
How do you think you look when you sit at your desk or get behind the wheel of your car? I am going to take a guess, your head will have crept forward, your shoulders will have rolled inwards compressing your chest, your upper spine will round, and in fact your whole body will start to adopt a deformed “C” shape. This “C” shape will cage your internal organs, reducing your blood flow and before long, the continual pressure will start to focus on a few discs in your back and will start grinding on your nerves, now you really are in pain. One day you make a movement and “pop” there goes a disc that you thought happened because of the movement, but unfortunately the real culprit was the silent and continual dysfunctional posture that you have adopted through prolonged sitting.
Most of us don’t even know why our back, neck or shoulders always feel stiff and continually ache, or why when we rise to stand we move gingerly to ensure we don’t “put something out”, or why it takes a few baby steps to get our hips fully mobile. The plain simple truth is that sitting is a silent foe, that depending on where you are in the cycle will be responsible for your tight and aching muscles, high blood pressure, weight gain even when you are working out, difficulty concentrating, forgetfulness, poor and restless sleep and back pain. These are all signs that are warning you of this single destructive habit.
So what do you do? It’s not as if we can go through life not sitting again. Luckily it can be rectified very easily, just keep getting up. If you have to set up a notification every 30 minutes to signal you that it’s time to move, do it! You don’t have to go far but as long as you break the cycle the results will speak for themselves. You have to start to be proactive and redefine what movement means to you. Go to the bathroom, get a drink, go outside, walk up and down a flight of stairs, stand up and stretch your hamstrings, quadriceps, and calf muscles, mobilize your upper body with a few rhythmic movements. Whatever it is do it little and often, but just get moving, the long and short term benefits will be life changing!