Is Sitting Harmful to Your Health?

Modern lifestyle has forced us into spending much of the time in a sitting position. Most of us sit a lot through the day. We sit to eat breakfast, travelling to and from work sitting in a car or train/bus, resting on the chair while working. After we have finished our day giving the best at work we come back and have a deserved rest in comfortable couch in front of the TV or relaxing with a computer.

All of this is accumulating to about 15hr of sitting. This is an awful lot and it definitely is not good for our health. But what is actually happening when we are sitting for long time and why this is bad for us?

  • Lack of stability provided by our hips position via glutes and torque from lower limbs while we stand, is creating an unstable base for the spine when sitting, and results in two possibilities while sitting. Flexion (hunching over) or extension (leaning forward) position in the search for stability.
  • Due to the lack of stability our body is starting to compensate in an attempt to keep our torso upright, tightening one of the quadriceps head (rectus femoris) in the effort to bring the pelvis forward and it becomes isometrically loaded and results with time in shortening that muscle,
  • Next muscles to help with the compensation are the hip flexors (Iliacus and psoas) which are running from the front of our spine to the pelvis and pelvis to thigh bone, tensing and shortening in order to support the stability of the spine.

This shortening of the muscles will reduce our mobility in the hips not allowing us to stand up properly and resulting in further compensations by the extending lower back which might cause back pain.

Reducing our time spent in a chair is a great way to help preventing this process, so we should move around and stretch every 30 minutes, also the way we sit can reduce the stress on these muscles. We can learn how to sit more efficiently from people who meditate in the lotus position on the floor, as this set up is creating far more stability for our spine than the European way of using a chair.

  • By taking the lotus position we are we are providing more stability to our pelvis through activating the hip capsule in the end range of flexion and rotation of thigh bones,
  • Rotating our hands palms up (supine) we are creating stable position for our shoulders providing a neutral positioning for our head.
  • This set up is providing support through the pelvis and lumbar region.

It is not always possible to sit cross legged at work or when traveling to and from, but we can use this position relaxing at home after work, helping our body to get out of the shortening pattern. This is not the solution to the modern day office worker problems. The best way is to keep moving as we are not designed to sit for so long.

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About the author: Les Bubka is an experienced martial artist, personal trainer and therapist who specialises in posture, mobility and Karate.  Les works with a wide variety of clients including martial artists and athletes as well as those suffering with postural dysfunction or those who wish to improve their fitness and wellbeing.
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