Let’s face it – our culture makes it really, really hard not to be sitting in a chair all the time. We sit for meals, we sit in a car to get to work, we sit down at work, we sit to drive home, and then we sit in front of a TV. A lot of the time we even sit when we exercise – a bike puts us in pretty much the same spot as sitting down does, and so do a lot of the machines at a gym.
How much time do you sit each day? Take this fun quiz!
Recently, the news is full of articles about all the bad things that sitting does to your body. The thing is that these articles just talk about sitting. They don’t really explain what it is about sitting in particular that does all this bad stuff.
Because guess what? Sitting isn’t actually all that bad for you. It’s sitting ALL THE TIME IN EXACTLY THE SAME POSITION that’s bad for you. Doing anything all the time is bad for you, even the very best stuff in the world. Drinking kale smoothies all the time is bad for you. Napping all the time is bad for you. Standing at your new standing desk in the most ergonomic set up ever is bad for you too. Your body needs a variety of movement and position in order to do its job of making sure all your cells are getting well-fed and regularly regenerated.
Since we get so little variety, the specific way that we sit has specific health repercussions. Your body adapts to what it does most frequently. In the case of our culture, this means that most of us have adapted to having short hamstrings, hips flexed at 90 degrees, pelves tucked, lumbar spines flexed (when seated they make a convex curve back behind us instead of having a small concave curve), shoulders internally rotated, and head and neck stuck out forward so we can see our screens (or the road). That basically means two things:
1) The bits of us that don’t get used by sitting start to atrophy, shorten and tighten, meaning they don’t work as well when we’re not sitting, and they don’t get the oxygen supply and waste removal that they need for health.
2) The bits of us that get overused, or that compensate for our overuse, start to hurt. And eventually, to break.
So what to do about it?
You can sit less, or you can sit differently, or both. In this post, how to sit in chairs less.
- This one is the key – take more breaks from sitting. Every twenty minutes is great if you can swing it – every hour will still make a difference. Get up, walk around the office, do a mini-stretch. Be committed to your breaks – it can be really hard to make yourself stop working even for two minutes. Remind yourself that this will help you be more productive in the long run!
- When you go for coffee with someone, go for a little walk as well. Five to ten minutes is great!
- When you can, go for walking meetings.
- Go outside for lunch. When you’re done eating, add another mini walk.
- Schedule a 15 minute walk into your afternoon.
- Get a wireless head-set for your phone. This will be awesome for your neck and arms, too. When you take a call, get up and stroll around or stretch.
- Take a bit of extra time when you take a bathroom break to climb up and down a couple of flights of stairs.
- Get a standing desk. If your employer isn’t too into this, get a doctor’s note first. That will usually help win them over. You can also figure out a cheap conversion option – you don’t necessarily need all the bells and whistles of a fully convertible sit-stand station. There are purpose-built desk-top converters, or you can do some precarious stacking of boxes. Please don’t actually make anything precarious. But there are lots of ideas on the internet of how you can get your monitor high enough for standing. In fact, this weekend I’m building myself a home standing set-up out of a single shelf and a rolling wire cabinet. If you’re going to go this route, stay tuned for my posts coming up soon on how to make the transition to standing in a way that doesn’t hurt you.
- Eat more meals standing up. We use our kitchen counter as a place to rest our dishes and cutlery and we hang out and move around as we eat.
- Eat more meals sitting on the floor. The coffee table and some cushions give you a good way to get out of chairs and into different hip ranges of motion.
- Put a couple of yoga bolsters and half domes on your living room floor – sit on them instead of on your couch.
- Go for a ten minute walk after dinner. Try an audiobook or a podcast if you want some entertainment while you go.
- Set up a standing station for your computer or ipad so that you can stand while you use the internet.
- Try a TV-free day – get outside and play instead.
- Add some walking to your commute – park or get off transit further away from work or home and make up the distance by walking.
- Get rid of your furniture! It might be hard to convince your partner about this one 🙂
Enjoy and good luck! If you have other ideas about how to move more, I’d love to hear your comments!