Sitting is an essential part of everyday. We sit for meals, while travelling, at work, and then collapse at the end of the day and sit again to watch TV, talk or read. We all do it – but how can we minimise the negative effects of sitting?
Why we should sit less and move more
There are multiple reasons for why we present to physiotherapy with stiffness and soreness in the neck, shoulders, mid or lower back. Often it relates to the way we sit, and how long we sit for. Studies have shown that part of the reason for this is that the sitting posture places a lot more pressure on the lower spine than standing, walking, or lying down.
One key to minimising the negative effects of sitting is not to sit for too long in any one position without getting up and moving. The recent revelation of ‘sitting disease’, first described in Australia, shows the significant health challenges including increased cardiovascular disease, cancer and musculoskeletal issues related to excessive sitting.
Going to the gym and working out for an hour does not reverse the negative health effects of sitting for a 6 to 8 hour working day! It is better to reduce the cumulative effects of sitting by using the following tips.
Simple ways to help balance out your sitting day
- Before your busy sitting day starts try to do some gentle activity. Walk to work, park the car further away or get off the bus a few stops earlier.
- During the day maintain a ‘good upright sitting posture’ when seated and try to minimise each sitting session to 30 mins. This means sitting in a supportive chair with your back supported, and maintaining a slight backwards curve in your lower back by not slumping down into the chair.
- Make sure you also lift your chest and gently nod and glide your neck back to reduce the forward poke of your neck. Do this gently and combine it with deep breathing exercises.
- Every half hour or so do 2 mins of slow diaphragmatic breathing. Breathe into your belly while in an upright, balanced posture. This will help re-oxygenate and refresh body and mind.
- For a guide to Better Breathing ttp://www.essentialhealthplus.com.au/articles/breathing-better.
- On your journey home, continue to keep your back in a relaxed, upright posture and end the working day with another 10 to 15 minute walk.
As you can see in the middle picture the person is in a upright posture which would be seen as ‘ideal upright posture’. However, the chair back is too short, making it hard to maintain a relaxed upright posture. The back of the chair should support the whole length of the back and would be angled slightly back to allow you to support yourself in a more relaxed and comfortable position with less effort.
Here is a link to our ergonomic tips for both sitting and standing postures at a desk. You can apply the same principles for all postures:
A device like a Posture Medic can also assist you in maintaining an upright posture:
At the end of the day, people’s posture tends to become fairly slumped as a result of their core stability/endurance being at its least activated. You tend to find yourself hunching forwards, shearing through the neck, leaning on one elbow and losing concentration. So again, try to get up and move around rather than lounging for long periods on a couch that does not properly support you or your spine.
- Find yourself an upright chair that supports the whole length of your spine.
- Prop yourself up comfortably with a long, flat pillow up the length of your spine.
- Place your feet flat on the floor or perhaps raised on a small step or cushion.
- Get up every 10-15 mins (or ad break) and move around, then sit back down.
It may not sound like the most comfortable way to relax in the evening. However, it is going to reduce the irritation you have when trying to get to sleep and the stiffness you might experience in the morning. This isn’t just because of the way you sleep, but more often because of the way you were sitting the night before!
For further tips and some suggestions on loosening up prior to going to bed please see our end of day stretch routine article https://www.essentialhealthplus.com.au/ehp-physio-guide-to-a-better-sleep/
The physiotherapists at EHP Physio are highly skilled at assessing and treating you so that you can function at your best. Come in for a musculoskeletal or posture screen to ensure you are able to get in to and maintain your ideal posture.
Please feel free to forward this to a friend or family member who may also benefit from this guide.