can sitting for long periods of time affect your body?

Neck Pain

Neck Pain

Sitting too much can be bad for you and most of us do feel a little guilty after a long tv binge, but what I wanted to do was to give you a little insight into “What exactly goes wrong in our bodies when we sit down for long periods of time?” The best way I can describe it is to break it down into stages for you starting with:

Muscle Degeneration

And these can be broken down even further into smaller categories such as

  • Mushy Abs:These are when you stand, or move and sit up straight it is the abdominal muscles that keep you up straight, but when you slump the muscles become unused causing the back muscles to tighten up and therefore the abs become weak which can overtime affect the spines natural arch!

(Try this out now get up from where you are sitting and look at your posture in a mirror, is it hunched over? Perhaps you’ve been sitting for far too long!)

  • Tight Hips: Flexible hips help keep you balanced but chronic sitters however rarely extend their hip flexor muscles causing the muscles to become shortened affecting range of motion and stride length.
  • Limp Glutes: Sitting requires your glutes to do absolutely nothing and they will become used to this which will knock your stability and decrease your ability to push off and have a powerful stride.

Leg Disorders

  • Poor Circulation: Prolonged sitting slows blood circulation which forms fluid to pool in the legs. (Often the reason why your body may feel cold to touch…brrr)
  • Soft Bones: Weight-bearing activities such as walking and running help stimulate bones to grow thicker, denser, and stronger.

Back Pain

  • Inflexible Spine: Spines that don’t move become inflexible and susceptible to damage in mundane activities such as when you reach for a coffee or bend down to tie your shoes. When you move the stiff discs between the vertebra expand and contract like sponges soaking up fresh nutrients, therefore when we are sat the discs become squished unevenly and lose their sponginess which leads to collagen hardening around supporting tendons.
  • Disc Damage: People who sit a lot more increase their chances of herniated lumbar discs. A muscle called the psoas travels through the abdominals and when it tightens pulls the lower spine forward.

Trouble at the Top

  • Strained Neck: For those of you who work in an office-type job role sitting at a desk at work carrying your neck forward to a keyboard or tilting to the side cradling a phone while typing can strain the cervical vertebrae which may lead to a permanent imbalance. This can even cause a pinched nerve feeling in the cervical vertebrae.
  • Sore Shoulders and Back: The neck doesn’t stretch alone, slumping forward overextends the shoulder and back muscles as well.

Neck Pain

So what can YOU do to prevent these from happening…? You could try:

  • Sitting on something wobbly: Such as a balance ball or backless stool to force your core muscles to work. Try sitting up straight with both feet flat on the floor in front of you which will support a quarter of your weight.
  • Stretching the hip flexor: Whenever there’s a spare few minutes in the office or at home just get up and have a stretch which elongates your hip flexors.
  • Walking around: Even as little as every hour stand up and walk from one side of the room to the other to stretch out their underused muscles. (Could be a great excuse for a coffee break…)

The alternative between sitting and standing:

At your workstation every 20 minutes even if it’s only for a minute or two it will make all the difference.

  • Try Yoga: Yoga can be a very beneficial way of helping with the strengthening of the spine and is great for when you are feeling a little stiff after sitting for long periods of time. The cow-cat stretch in particular is an excellent pose to perform to improve extension and flexion in your back.

Check out our YouTube for helpful exercises.

So remember if you think you’ve been sitting about for a little longer than you should have (and we’re all guilty of this) get up and try some of these!



Nick Hunter, PT, DPT

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