There is ample evidence to show that sitting a lot – a sedentary lifestyle – leads to all sorts of health issues as we age. That’s for the average person.
I believe that those of us with neurodegenerative/movement disorders are doubly at risk. That is, the effects of sitting for prolonged periods of time can be felt almost immediately in some cases.
I look at my own case and see that this is true. If I sit for more than an hour, my hips tend to stiffen up and my legs often forget their job – until I get moving and they loosen up.
So, I thought I’d put together the following information about what happens when we sit too much, in unsatisfactory positions, and maybe what we can do to change our behaviour.
The Research on Sitting
Many of us sit a lot. Perhaps more than we realize.
We sit in our cars, we sit at work/school, we sit when watching TV/playing video games, we sit to eat, we sit in the washroom. Taken separately, these might be tolerable, but collectively these are making our muscles weaker (hip flexors, chest, low back, upper back, abdominals).
Coupled with inactivity (usually if we’re sitting for 12-15 hours a day we may have little time left over to move around).
According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, a sedentary/inactive lifestyle results in the following effects:
- You burn fewer calories. This makes you more likely to gain weight.
- You may lose muscle strength and endurance because you are not using your muscles as much
- Your bones may get weaker and lose some mineral content
- Your metabolism may be affected, and your body may have more trouble breaking down fats and sugars
- Your immune system may not work as well
- You may have poorer blood circulation
- Your body may have more inflammation
- You may develop a hormonal imbalance
and the following health risks:
- Heart diseases, including coronary artery disease and heart attack
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Metabolic syndrome
- Type 2 diabetes
- Certain cancers, including colon, breast, and uterine cancers
- Osteoporosis and falls
- Increased feelings of depression and anxiety
This TED video tells you all you need to know:
I find that I sit down without control sometimes. I tend to flop down into a chair. Perhaps with a slumped back. Especially when I’m tired.
I suspect this is the same with others with movement disorders, but that’s just a guess.
If you must sit, here’s how to do it:
- Push your hips as far back as they can go in the chair.
- Keep your shoulders back and your back straight.
- Adjust the seat height to fit your body.
- Adjust the back of the chair to a 100°-110° reclined angle.
- Make sure that your upper and lower back are supported.
- Adjust the armrests.
* Source: www.wikihow.com/Sit
Watch this video for a few pointers:
According to Dr. Kelly Starrett’s book Ready To Run, every 15 minutes get up and go through the bracing sequence:
- Squeeze your butt, activating your glutes. This will set your pelvis in a neutral position.
- Breathe in through your diaphragm, tighten your abs and then slowly exhale. This will pull your ribcage down into a neutral position.
- Set your head in a neutral position, and then extend your arms out to the sides and pull your shoulders back into external rotation (palms up). With a balanced pelvis and ribcage, align your ears with your shoulders and hips. Your gaze is forward, and your hips, shoulders, and head are in a neutral position.
Now, dial it all back to 20 percent power and resume sitting. It’ll take some effort to work this into your muscle memory, but isn’t something that needs to take a long time.
Movements/Mobilizations to Counteract the Effects of Sitting
Aside from the bracing sequence mentioned above, you should also sprinkle some mobility work every hour or so.
Here are 2 videos that may help you provided they are done consistently:
I go to Ido Portal’s videos or the Movement Culture Facebook group whenever I want to learn more mobility stuff. What little I’ve done so far, with the help of a great mobility coach Oskar Gut, has helped immensely – especially with hip and shoulder mobility.
I honestly, just came across the 2nd video while searching for good information to share. It’s one of the better ones I’ve seen.
Scheduling and Setting Priorities
Another big lesson I’ve learned is setting priorities. I try to focus first on the things that matter. Mobility is important for everyone, but especially me, being somewhat disabled.
I try to sit down less than hours a day. The rest of the time, I’m at the gym, dojo, stretching or doing mobility work. But, it’s a constant struggle. Actually, struggle is the wrong word. It’s something I enjoy working on consistently because I know that I’ll be healthier for me.
Your schedule might be different, but I urge you to simplify where you can so you can free up time for this important work.
I really hope you got a lot out of this post. Please like and share!