Sitting: What do I HAVE to Know About it to Help Me Stay Healthy?

Sitting Healthy

Sitting Healthy

Here’s a habit that every single one of us is doing daily…

It’s something we spend, on average, almost nine hours doing – and that’s not taking into account the eight hours we spend lying down sleeping…

Have you guessed it?

It’s sitting.

And I bet while you’re sat down reading this you might be thinking ‘that’s not me’, but when you break down your day into time spent travelling to work, sitting at work, traveling back home again, only to sit down AGAIN to binge-watch your favourite TV programmes of a night, it’s easy to see how the hours build up.

Sitting is something that was once done only when you needed a rest.

But not anymore. Almost everything we do, involves sitting down…

Whether you’re in your car, at work, eating dinner, catching up with friends, watching TV, or even just relaxing – we’re all sitting, and I’m guilty of it too.

And if you’ve nodded your head, said yes to most of the points above, and your hours spent sitting add up to nine or more – you could be at risk of running into problems with your health.

Here’s why:

First off, have you ever noticed your back and shoulders feeling tight and achy when you’ve been sitting down all day?

You know that feeling where you just want a good stretch, and a shoulder massage sounds ideal…

Yep, sitting does that, it makes your shoulders feel achy and tight.

Why? Because when we sit, we tend to ‘slump’ into a slouched position, rolling our shoulders forward.

Overtime this can put strain on your back muscles and neck, causing them to tighten up which as you probably know, isn’t a good feeling!

As well as sitting slouched, when you’re sitting at a computer it’s easy to hold your neck forward while concentrating – again putting strain on your muscles.

My tip for you to help correct this: Every 30 minutes check-in with yourself, roll your shoulders back, stand up, have a stretch and make sure your neck isn’t leaning forward.

This should help ease the aches and tension you feel.

Next, what about your legs and hips? Sitting for long periods of time can affect those too. It makes your muscles tighten up, and even weaken, because when you’re sitting your muscles are made to shorten – so when they’re not stretched, this can cause pain and can even lead to poor circulation (like when you get pins and needles after sitting for long periods of time).

My tip: Stand up throughout the day, and go for a walk, even if it’s around the office – this will help lengthen the muscles and not keep them scrunched up.

Did you know sitting has an impact on your lungs too? This one might surprise you but when you sit down all day, you reduce the amount of oxygen that enters your body…

When you’re hunched over, your lungs become compressed meaning there’s less space for your lungs to expand when you breathe – limiting the amount of oxygen that fills your lungs.

Mt tip: Every half hour be aware of your posture and make sure you’re sitting up straight. Stand up, take a few deep breaths, lift your arms above your head and take a deep breath in – and you may find you’ll feel more energised too!

Do you ever feel bloated after a long day, or week spent sitting down?

Well, when you’re sitting in a curled over position your digestion slows down because it compresses your abdomen – which can lead to bloating, heartburn and even constipation.

Additionally, when we’re sat down our bowel functions are less efficient than when we’re standing up.

My tip: Stand regularly throughout the day and take time to move. Walk to work, walk to the shops, go for a walk on the treadmill – whatever gets you moving and opens up your body, will help!

The reality is you and I need to sit LESS.

Fact: Even just by spending an hour sitting, you reduce your bodies ability to burn fat by up to 90% as it slows down your bodies metabolism significantly. This can reduce the amount of good cholesterol in your body. And without good cholesterol you’re at a greater risk of heart disease and diabetes.

Excess sitting in slouched positions is also the number one cause of back pain and neck and shoulder tension for people who visit my physical therapy clinic. And if something isn’t done about it quick – it can cause problems further down the line like sciatica, and other problems that get in the way of life.

So here’s some tips to help you stand more during your day that are easy to incorporate:

  • Stand up when talking on the phone – I actually much prefer walking and talking at the same time!
  • Set a timer on your phone for 30 minutes and stand up from your desk and walk around for a minute or two.
  • Stretch in the morning, when you get home, and even during your dinner break
  • Learn to improve your seated posture and have regular posture check ins with yourself.

So to sum it up – we’re creatures of habit, and our bodies are a result of those habits – getting up and moving more might feel hard at first, but do it enough and it’ll soon become second nature, you’ll feel healthier, more active and reduce the risk of back pain too.

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Nick Hunter, PT, DPT

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