Helping You Get Back to Neutral… Sitting is the New Smoking

By Nunzio Signore (BA, CPT, NASM, PES, FMS)

Sitting Image Top

Ninety percent of my adult clientele struggle with back pain, mostly in the same area and for what I believe to be for primarily the same reasons at some point in their life.  Today we’ll address one of the main reasons and some of the things we can do from not only a lifestyle but training standpoint as well. That problem is:

SITTING!!!

Americans are spending more time seated than ever and it’s wreaking havoc on our bodies as we basically are sitting ourselves to death.

Sitting for Extended Periods of Time (mostly watching TV and sitting at work for hours on-end can create havoc on the body.  Check out Kelly Starrett and Glen Cordoza’s book “Deskbound – Sitting is the New Smoking”.

Sitting Image 2

Sitting, like smoking, is detrimental to our health and the only way to minimize the risk is to spend less time on our butts each day. Here are just a few of the repercussions of sitting all day:

  1. Mortality Rate – A study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology found that men and women who sat more than six hours a day died earlier than their counterparts who limited sitting time to 3 hours a day or less.
  1. Depression – Another study published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine followed 9,000 middle-aged women who sat more than 3 hours/day as well as not following a daily exercise program suffered from depression at much higher rates compared with the women who sat less and exercised more. 
  1. Posture and Joint Pain – There’s a saying “we lose what we don’t use”. Muscles are healthiest when they are being used and challenged on a regular basis, so sitting on your butt all day can weaken our core , glutes and hamstrings, the three major players that not only keep us upright but help keep us out of debilitating back pain.

Sitting Image 3

As for Points 1 and 2, getting up and moving around (or seeing a good shrink) seem to be the obvious, but as for posture and joint pain, here are some great exercises to help strengthen what’s weak and stretch what’s tight to help get your posture “back to neutral”.

Strengthen:

Weak Sagittal Abdominals – Sitting all day and slouching completely shut off the core. Exercises like sit ups and Russian twists can make the problem worse. Try “Band Leg Lowering” to help strengthen the saggital abs, better known as “six-pack” abs:

(Band Leg Lowering)

Weak Glutes and Hamstrings – When the pelvis is tilted downward (Anterior Pelvic Tilt), the glutes and hamstrings become stretched causing them to be long and weak. This can be a major cause of back pain (click here for back pain blog).  Waking them up with a glute activation exercise can go a long way:

(1-Leg Glute Bridge)

Stretch:

Tight Hip Flexors – Prolonged sitting is the number one culprit of tight hip flexors, which is why 90% of us walk around with anterior tilts and back pain. Enter the 90/90 hip flexor stretch to the rescue:

(90/90 Hip Flexor Mob)

Tight Back Extensors – Many hours hunched over an iPad or computer wreaks havoc on our back extensors making them tight from being “over worked” as a result of them “hanging on for dear life” trying to keep us upright in a seated position all day.

(SMR – Thoraco-Lumbar Fascia)

All of these exercises can be done without equipment or right in your office. Hitting these exercises a few times a day will go a long way in helping you stay upright and pain free.

See ya’ in the gym.

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