Sitting is Bad (But Not for the Reason You Think)

Are you sitting down for this? Good. Because what I’m about to tell you may change your view of sitting forever. In fact, I hope it does.

From a young age we are taught to sit with “proper posture” – head up, shoulders back, stomach tucked. The reasoning we’re told is that when the body and spine are aligned “properly” it can function optimally. The proposed consequence of not following this advice is a sure fire ticket to back and neck pain.

And in the past several decades entire industries have been built upon postural and ergonomic advice. That advice, however, may not be all it’s cracked up to be.

Body awareness – how you move, how you hold yourself, how you sit – is certainly recommended. It’s good to be familiar with how your body works and what it responds favourably and unfavourably to. And there certainly are positions that can put undue stress on the body leading to pain.

But the research doesn’t support the idea of a single, ideal posture which will prevent pain. In fact there is very little correlation between posture and the symptoms one can feel.

On top of that, take a look around you – there is such a variety of body shapes and styles. There is no one-size-fits-all skeleton. Everyone is a little different.

Most of us feel relatively well most of the time, with periodic aches and pains being the norm. This is good news. It means that you can stop worrying about trying to maintain the “proper” posture all the time (and stop feeling guilty about being unsuccessful).

But hold on a minute. This doesn’t mean you should find a comfy position and just stay there. The body craves movement, and if you stay in one position for a prolonged period of time you can start to feel stiff and achy. And if you stay in one position repetitively, day after day, you can start to feel stiff and achy. This is as true for sitting at an ergonomically set up workstation as it is for sitting slouched on the couch in front of video games.

And on top of the pain that static sitting positions can lead to there are overall health problems that can develop. The more you sit the more you are at risk for developing heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, arthritis, anxiety, depression, and shortened life span. So there’s that.

“Ah, I see what you’re getting at, Mark. I should get a standing desk and stand all day, right?”

I would agree that most of us don’t stand as much as we could. However, before you start living the life of a chronic stander, ask a cashier how it feels to stand in one spot for eight hours a day? Answer: not so great – sore feet, knees, back, shoulders. Again, the body doesn’t like to be in one position for prolonged periods of time.

So while there is no ideal posture for sitting (or standing), and prolonged sitting can lead to pain and other poor health implications, there are some things you can do to manage it.

  1. Frequently change your posture/position. By switching things up you are imparting variety of motion into your body, and that’s something it likes.
  2. Standing desks can be a great option if your work requires you to be in one spot – especially if you have the option to switch between sitting and standing. Also, see no. 1.
  3. Incorporate frequent movement breaks into your work day. My suggestions is to stand up and move around briefly (under five minutes is all that’s needed) about three times per hour.
  4. Stop worrying about your posture. Instead, concern yourself with moving more often and with more variety.

To summarise: Your body is built to move. Don’t disappoint it

If you would like more information on movement, and what you can do to keep feeling well contact us at Clear Path Chiropractic. We’re always happy to chat.

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