Sitting Too Much is Ruining Your Health (and Spine)

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How many hours do you sit each day?

How many days a week do you sit?

Do you ever sit for a period upwards of 11 hours in a day?

 

These are very important questions to ask yourself. As I sit here writing this blog, I am aware that I, myself have been sitting for the past hour researching statistics for this very article… with my posture suffering as minutes tick by.

In some sense, we all know that we shouldn’t sit too long. That prolonged sitting is detrimental to our health. What most of us don’t realize is that it is probably worse for us than we think…

According to Web MD, sitting too much is linked to worsened mental health as well as increased risk of heart disease and disability. Why? No one seems quite sure. What we do know is that the most detrimental data came from a study looking at women who sit for over 11 hours per day.

What’s worse is that it does not appear that your morning walk or jog is enough to combat your 8+ hours of sitting each day. These activities appear to be mutually exclusive. By no means should you stop your regular workout, but this does suggest that- as a society- we need to change how we function. We need to sit less and move more. Revolutionary!

Another study even suggests that sitting is harmful to our children. This study looked at sitting times of only 3 hours. It demonstrated a marked negative change in the blood flow through the arteries of the group that did not move out of chairs for a full 3 hours. However, the group that rode a bicycle (gently) for 10 minutes out of each hour had no change.

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How often do your kids sit for long periods? School has them seated for 8+ hours each day which is not even counting video game or TV time in the evenings. Our society asks kids to sit still and pay attention. We tend to squash the wiggles right out of them by the time they are in the first grade.

Maybe this is why kids are wiggly, naturally?! Maybe we are meant to move around a lot more than we do! Movement pumps our blood back to the heart through our veins. Movement causes positive changes in our cardiovascular health. Movement keeps our joints lubricated and healthy! Movement keeps us alive and healthy.

And guess what else comes along with too much sitting? Back pain!

Our spines are made with gentle curves that support our weight and absorb shock. When we sit, we often curve our spines into a C- shape, rounding the low back, hunching the shoulders, and thrusting the head forward.

We are simply  not built for this. These abnormal stresses on the spine overwork our muscles and can cause a lot of damage to our spines. They are often accompanied by low back pain and headaches!

Proper sitting, ie: sitting on the sit bones and tall through the spine, is far less detrimental to the spine and is difficult to maintain for long periods- necessitating movement.

I feel like I am sounding a bit repetitive, but movement is what we are made for. So… here are some tips to help you to improve your health, sit less, and MOVE MORE.

  • Use a standing desk– Your posture will automatically  be better and you are more likely to move about the office. It is also easy to incorporate simple exercises like heel raises, toe taps, glute squeezes, etc into your day when you are standing at work.
  • Be conscious of your posture– I sometimes place a ball between my middle back and the back of my chair. If the ball moves, I am slouching and probably need to get up and move about.
  • Set movement reminders– If you have a tendency to get locked into a task, try setting an alarm on your phone or computer that reminds you to get up and walk a bit. Remember, the study in young girls found that moving 10 minutes out of each hour made a dramatic change in their vascular condition.
  • Try sitting on an exercise ball– It is really hard to slouch on an exercise ball. Plus, your core will remain engaged and you can perform exercises like pelvic tilts while sitting at your desk.

Now, get out there and move! Remember that regular care for your spine includes an evaluation by a Doctor of Chiropractic as well as movement and good posture. Are you worried about your posture? What about your kids? Stay tuned for my next blog about posture- How to tell if you have good posture and what to do about it!

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