Am I sitting for too long?
Well, the short answer to this is yes, you probably are.
We live in a time where we are all sitting for much longer than ever before and I know from my clinic I see a lot of people whose root problem is the amount of time they spend sitting and the effect this has on our bodies. You are more than likely sitting to read this.
If you work in an office chances are that you are sitting for an average of 15 hours a day and for many people this is the nature of the beast. We drive to work, sit on train or bus, sit at a desk all day, you may even eat your lunch at your desk and then drive home, sit down to eat supper before moving into the sitting room to relax watching television before going to bed. That’s 5 days out of 7 and then the weekend is for relaxing, catching up on jobs, preparing for another week at work so the chance to sit or lie down and recoup is jumped at – that’s the other 2 days of the week.
Sitting or lying requires the body to use very little energy which means you burn very few calories, yet you can turn up the burning of calories just by standing at your desk. For example, if you compare 4 hours of sitting with 4 hours of standing and sitting. A female weighing around 10 stone. Sitting for 4 hours would burn around 499 whereas 4 hours of standing and sitting would burn appropriately 761 calories which is an extra 229* www.startstanding.org.
Sitting seems such a natural activity, we all do it for hours on end. But actually, it is the most unnatural activity for our bodies. We are designed to move and structured to move. We have over 360 joints and roughly 700 skeletal muscles that assist easy, fluid motion. We are designed to stand up straight against the pull of gravity. In order for the body to function well and work as the efficient complicated machine that is the human body; we need to move. Our blood supply relies on us moving to be able to circulate properly, our nerve cells benefit from movement, our lymphatic system doesn’t have a pump to keep it working efficiently, which is why our lymphatic system is positioned in places such as the neck, armpits, diaphragm, tummy and groin. Positions that require movement to ensure lymphatic drainage. Is this important? Do we need our lymphatic system to drainage effectively? The simple answer to this is YES. Our lymphatic system helps to protect us from infection and disease. It’s part of our immune system and if this is compromised, we get sick. It really is that simple.
I see so many people who suffer with lower back pain, stiff back, tight shoulders, stiff neck, pain in hips and so the list goes on and this is often down to the many hours of sitting day after day after day.
Why is sitting for long periods of time so bad for the body? Well, if we think about our spine, it is a long structure made up of bones and cartilage discs that sit between them. Attached to this structure are joints, muscles ligaments and fascia holding it all together. When we sit, we tend to sit with a curved back, slumped shoulders which all puts pressure on the spine and over time, this causes wear and tear on our spinal discs, overworks certain ligaments and joints and strains muscles that over stretch to accommodate the curved back. But this isn’t it, this hunched position crushes our lungs, so we can’t take a full in-take of oxygen which to fill our lungs and filter our blood.
This squashed position pressurisers and compresses the whole skeleton and the more delicate tissues really bear the brunt of sitting. You will know this, if you ever feel numbness and swelling in your limbs.
It’s not just your body that doesn’t like to sit for long periods of time, your brain isn’t a big fan either. Like your body your brain requires a steady blood flow and oxygenated blood for you to remain alert. When you sit for long periods of time and compromise the quality of oxygenated blood your concentration levels will dip as your brain activity slows down.
So, with many of us working in a 9-5pm office environment and doing what seems like a harmless activity actually has the power to change your health for the worse. But there are solutions that we can all adopt, after all we are not going to stop sitting. Try to mindful of your body and listen to it. Try substituting the hunched, slumped position for a straighter spine and when you don’t have to sit move around as much possible. You could have talk and walk meetings, suggest that for part of the meeting you all stand, set a reminder on your phone every half an hour to you get up and move around. It is the small changes that makes the big difference.
To give you and your body greater benefit from sitting you could consider Bowen therapy. Bowen therapy is a great way to release the tension around your spine, help you feel relaxed and help your lymphatic system drain. In short Bowen therapy can help you to help your body as you start to appreciate that your body is designed for movement not stillness.
If you have been sitting while you read this, why not stand up stretch and go for a walk.
Your body will thank you later.