I have some bad news. Are you sitting down? Wait! That IS the bad news! We sit too much and it’s killing us. Dr. James Levine at Mayo Clinic warns that excessive sitting has the same negative consequences as smoking on our body and our life.
A 2008 Vanderbilt study estimated that Americans spent 7.7 hours of every day being sedentary. Current estimates are closer to 10-15 hours. This “sitting disease” is linked to at least 34 chronic diseases, including obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, and an increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease and cancer. Researchers have found that each hour a person sits increases the level of risk, regardless of the fitness level of the person. Sitting is detrimental even for people who are otherwise physically active.
Standing instead of sitting does not change your risk factor. And being a weekend warrior doesn’t overcome the results of a week’s worth of sedentary behavior. Aside from quitting your desk job, the best options at the moment are to get at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity activity (such as a brisk walk) throughout the day, as well as taking every opportunity to get up and move. It’s clear that your brain and body require movement in order to remain healthy.
Don’t be a sitting duck! Get up and move!
It’s easy to add 30 minutes of moderate level activity to your day. Divide it into three 10 minute segments and go for a brisk walk after each meal: around the block, to the train station, the mailbox, your neighbor’s, up and down your hallway…anywhere except to a chair!
When you sit, make sure to do it correctly. Sitting incorrectly can create or add to already existing low back and shoulder pain, can compress your lungs and abdominal organs, and cause your breath to become short and inefficient.
Start by standing in front of your chair. Bend your knees, hinge forward, and reach your buttocks all the way back into your chair. Sit upright, lengthening your spine as you lift up. Your back should not be touching the back of your chair. If your back muscles aren’t strong enough to support this position, you can place a folded towel over the back of your chair to support your shoulder blades so you don’t round forward. Your hips will be tipped forward a little in this position.
Your feet should be on the floor with your thighs parallel to the floor and knees pointing forward. If your thighs angle up, sit on a height such as a folded blanket. If they reach down toward the floor, put something under your feet such as a small stool. Don’t let them flop out to the sides.
Another option is to sit on the front edge of your chair. This automatically tips your pelvis forward. Lift your ribcage to support your back without lifting your shoulder blades. Don’t dump your belly forward. Now you can pull one foot back by your chair seat so that thigh points down. Your other thigh will be parallel to the floor with the foot under the knee.
Both of these positions should be comfortable. You should not feel compression or pain in your low back and your belly should not hang forward. Lifting your ribcage provides the engaged abdominal muscles you need to support your low back while keeping your back in a safe position.
Notice that the model is sitting with her buttocks a little further back than her shoulders. There is a curve in her low back and her ribcage is lifted. She isn’t popping her chest forward. Her thighs are parallel with the floor.
Sitting on a large therapy ball is a great way to sit. In addition to encouraging better posture, it requires a little bit of balance. The key is making sure your ball is the correct size and is fully inflated.