“The human body wasn’t meant to sit for 8 hours a day.” You’ve likely heard that before and there is a lot of truth to that. While the body can maintain a seated position, our anatomy was not intended to properly support this prolonged position.
Sedentary behavior, particularly associated with sitting, has quickly become one of the largest public health issues of the 21st century due large in part to growing technology use in the workplace and home life. Generally speaking, prolonged sitting is linked to physical inactivity which imposes numerous health risks and adverse effects.
The Consequences of Prolonged Sitting
Prolonged sitting prompts physical inactivity which can lead to an unhealthy cycle of physical deconditioning to injury/disease and finally to a diminished desire for any physical activity.
Prolonged sitting affects every major system in the body:
• Increases heart rate, reduces your cardiac output and your capacity to exercise
• Decreases bone density, promotes tendon stiffness and increases risk of tendon injuries
• Can lead to muscle fatigue as well as loss of muscle strength and mass
• Increases blood pressure, blood sugar, insulin resistance and decreases oxygen uptake
• Can lead to many chronic health conditions such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease
• Can have a negative emotional impact, lowering self-esteem and body satisfaction
Upper Crossed Syndrome
Prolonged sitting also yields many postural issues, with the most common one being Upper Crossed Syndrome. Upper Crossed Syndrome is an imbalance of tight, overactive muscles with weak, inhibited muscles. It is characterized mainly by rounded shoulders and a forward head posture. If neglected overtime, Upper Crossed Syndrome results in unnecessary stress on the spine, nervous system and muscular system.
Ergonomics and Modern Devices
The daily and more frequent use of technological devices such as desktop computers, laptops, tablets and smart phones also bears many postural strains to health. Some of the conditions associated with poor posture/ergonomics include:
• Chronic neck and low back pain
• Upper Crossed Syndrome
• Weakening of core strength
• Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
• Tennis Elbow
Tips for Managing Prolonged Sitting and Ergonomics
• MOVE: It’s a must! At work, set a reminder to get up and take an “active break” every 30-60 mins. Get away from your work area and walk around, whether stepping out for a drink, the bathroom or a small stroll.
• Chiropractic Care: Regular chiropractic visits will ensure that poor postural habits are being properly eliminated and prevented. Gentle adjustments will remove interferences to your spine and nervous system brought on by postural stress.
• Ergonomic Improvements: Ensure that your “work stations” at both home and the office are ergonomically sound and invest in high, quality ergonomic pieces
• Limit sitting: If possible, try to limit sitting to 3 hours a day when you’re off work
• Physical Activity: While understandably not always possible, try to squeeze in at least 30 minutes of moderate to intense exercise every day
• Desktop Computers: Position your body in a “neutral spine” position – wrists straight, elbows and hips at 90 degrees and feet flat on the floor/or platform. Ensure your eyes are level with the top third of the screen, at about 18-24 inches away.
• Laptops: Try to utilize your laptop more like a desktop with a seated or standing posture, rather than lying down. When using for long periods of time, go for accessories like a riser or plug-in keyboard to minimize stress to neck and back.
• Smartphones & Tablets: Try to keep your texts brief and take advantage of auto-correction/word prediction features. While texting, maintain an upright posture to avoid constantly bending your neck down. Use a neutral grip when holding your device.
Wellness Media. [pamphlet]. Dangers of Sitting: Avoiding a Modern Day Hazard. Upper Tantallon, Nova Scotia: Wellness Media Resources.
Wellness Media. [pamphlet]. Modern Day Ergonomics: Preserving Your Body While Using Modern Devices. Upper Tantallon, Nova Scotia: Wellness Media Resources.