“Sitting to the spine is like sugar to the teeth.”
Have you heard this saying from a Chiropractor or health professional yet? I laughed when I first heard it, but it’s true. Although sitting can be one of a variety of postures we put ourselves in throughout the day, when prolonged, (for, let’s say, 8 hours at your desk!) it’s harmful to the spine for several reasons:
When sitting you put 30 to 40% more pressure on the discs in your lumbar spine.
Your vertebral discs play an important part in the overall health of your spinal joints. Read this blog post to find out more. When you sit for long periods of time the pressure on the discs in substantially increased, and this added pressure can lead to break down of the tissues, essentially accelerating the degenerative process.
Sitting causes loss of lumbar lordosis.
Your spine is designed to have curves, 4 of them, to give you structure, strength, and help your body adapt to the forces of gravity. When your spinal curves are healthy, your body will move the way it is designed to. When you sit for long periods of time the curve in your lower back (lumbar spine) shifts the other way. This loss of curve creates problems! Decreased strength, decreased range of motion, less stability, and shifting muscle patterns to compensate increased disc pressure.
Tight hip flexors, weak gluteal muscles.
Have you ever noticed that after sitting for too long, when you go to stand up you feel really stiff and sore, and even sometimes find it hard to properly stand up? Tight hip flexors causes this! When you sit for too long your hip flexors get tight, and your gluteal (butt muscles) become weaker. When these 2 muscles groups are compromised, you will gradually develop other problems in your back and hip joints.
Change in breathing pattern and subsequent organ compression.
Try sitting, and really accelerating a poor posture. Hunch your shoulders forward, round your middle back. Now try taking a nice full deep breath. How does it feel? Now sit up straight, arching your shoulders slightly back, and gently pushing your ribs forward. Try taking a nice full deep breath now. Notice the difference? When you sit for long periods of time the optimal functioning of many internal organs can be compromised, leaving you feeling more drained than you should be.
What can you do?
Consider how many hours a day, and then per week, you are sitting. Even if you are highly active working out five days a week, for 20-90 minutes a session, you’re still sitting more hours then you are sleeping, training, or simply moving. Those hours add up.
The biggest change you can make is to simply be aware that prolonged sitting is not good for you, and with this awareness start to slowly change your lifestyle. How can you vary your positions throughout the day? If there is a time you are sitting and doing something, can you do it in a different position? Could you stand up? Walk around? If you need to be sitting, give yourself stretch breaks every 40-60 minutes. Get creative and do what you can to move more, sit less. Check out this video of 3 ways to lower your stress at work for some other ideas.