Over the years, there have been various medical and lifestyle habits that have come to light as unsafe. Look at smoking. Smoking was huge. Companies would actively run ads saying that their cigarettes were doctor recommended and husband approved. Those were the old days when we didn’t have all the data. Among the growing list of habits and behaviors that aren’t doing much good for is us sitting. Sitting for long periods of time has been associated with a whole bunch of problems and postural issues. The true extent of how bad it can be has yet to come to light. But orthopedic doctors and experts in the field agree: sitting for that long isn’t great. The implications of this are massive. Why? Because millions of people all over the world typing away on a computer are doing so while seated. Not only are we sitting, we’ve been sitting for hours upon hours at a time. If you sit for more than 8 hours, you’re bound to develop something. Here, we’ll review the risks and disorders associated with sitting for 8 hours or more a day, as well as how to deal with it if sitting is an important and integral part of the work that you do.
Problem 1: Glute Weakening
The primary attack on your body is always going to be musculoskeletal. Here, we’ll focus on the muscles. When you sit for too long, you keep your glutes in a constant state of relaxation. The gluteus muscles are major workhorse muscles that we evolved to do incredible things. Nowadays, anything that other than sitting is regarded as “exercise.” In the grander scheme of what the human body is meant to do, the opposite of sitting isn’t exercise, it’s a classic sedentary lifestyle. Even though standing desks are now in major offices, people still actively choose to sit down. Weak glutes mean less movement and strengthening this large muscle group back to its purposeful shape takes time that the average person is not willing to set aside.
Problem 2: Iliopsoas Shortening
When your glutes are weakened from sitting, the opposing muscle group is flexed. That’s your iliopsoas complex. The iliopsoas runs from your spine towards the front of your hip bone and to your pelvis. When that’s flexed for long periods of time, it shortens. This is a massive problem. The attachments of your iliopsoas—from the spine to the top part of your femur, means that shortening it bends the lumbar spine in an unnatural way. It’s putting undue pressure on the area of your body that is wanting to hold your entire frame up. In doing so, this decreases stability, promotes pain, and causes most people to sit even more to avoid the discomfort. This is a recipe for absolute movement disaster. It’s the way you end up bedridden or with a walker way earlier than expected. The undue pressure on your own back is always framed as postural or somehow the manner in which you sit. That is clearly not the case. It’s the act of sitting itself through shortening of the iliopsoas complex.
How To Deal With It
The solutions to these problems are both simple and low cost. It just takes some time and a bit of effort.
- The primary enemy is sitting in the same spot for most of the day. Your first line of defense is to get up and walk around every hour. It’s not much, and the practice only acts to decrease the tension built up over that hour. But it’s the least you could do for your posture and spine.
- Next is using a standing desk. Standing desks are significantly better than a standard sitting desk in terms of circulation and actual body mechanics. Yes, it may get a bit tiring. But if you have the option, alternating between sitting and standing desks can be a feasible and smart implementation in your day to day health plan.
- Keep a standard exercise and stretching plan, focusing on your lower body mobility. Things like Yoga and Strength Training have all been shown to increase bone density, strengthen muscles, and decrease all-cause mortality. When you combine it with a stretching routine, this keeps your body supple and in significantly less danger of developing musculoskeletal disorders.
Sitting maybe the new smoking, but unlike smoking, implementing a routine to combat it is a lot less physically and psychologically taxing. In the world of health and medicine, bombarding one stressor with another is never the answer. Because of this, a good, steady, and goal oriented plan is always going to be the best option. Walk around on the dot. Use a standing desk. Exercise a few times a week. You should be fine.
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