As Dr.Mercola highlights in his article “Here is What Sitting Too Long Does to Your Body”, our body’s were designed for regular movement. Yet, day after day “More than one half of an average person’s day is spent being sedentary — sitting, watching television or working at a computer,” said Dr. David Alter, a senior scientist at the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute, who helmed the analysis.
The result? Damage to organs such as the heart, pancreas and colon. In addition, too much sitting has a negative impact on your posture, your digestion, your brain, your muscles and your legs. Today we are drawing attention to Dr. Erin’s recent video on posture and exercises that can done at your desk to help reduce the negative impact on your body.
In addition Dr. Mercola’s article (“Here is What Sitting Too Long Does to Your Body”) also gives some tips on how to add exercise to your day while at work; little tips that go a long way to a healthier lifestyle:
How to Get Up and Get Moving
I believe high-intensity exercises are an important part of a healthy lifestyle, but considering the fact that more than half of American men, and 60 percent of American women, never engage in any vigorous physical activity lasting more than 10 minutes per week,13 while at the same time sitting for hours on end, it’s clear that most people need to begin by simply getting more non-exercise movement into their daily routine.
It sounds simple, doesn’t it? Simply get up and move. The reality can be harder to get used to, since most people are so used to sitting while they work, eat, and watch TV. I recommend using a pedometer, or better yet, one of the newer wearable fitness trackers that can also give you feedback on your sleeping patterns, which is another important aspect of good health. At first, you may be surprised to realize just how little you move each day.
Setting a goal of say 7,000 to 10,000 steps a day (which is just over three to five miles, or 6-9 kilometers) can go a long way toward getting more movement and less sitting into your life. This should be over and above any exercise regimen you may have. I personally am doing about 14,000-15,000 steps a day. The only way I can get this many steps in is to walk for 90 minutes. Tracking your steps can also show you how simple and seemingly minor changes to the way you move around at work can add up. For example, you can:
- Walk across the hall to talk to a coworker instead of sending an email
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator
- Park your car further away from the entrance
- Take a longer, roundabout way to your desk
Other simple ways to increase your physical movement and avoid sitting down at work include:
- Organize the layout of your office space in such a way that you have to stand up to reach oft-used files, the telephone, or your printer, rather than having everything within easy reach.
- Use an exercise ball for a chair. Unlike sitting in a chair, sitting on an exercise ball engages your core muscles and helps improve balance and flexibility. Occasional bouncing can also help your body interact with gravity to a greater degree than sitting on a stationary chair. But this is a concession and it is still sitting, so standing would be a better option.
- Alternatively, use an upright wooden chair with no armrest, which will force you to sit up straight, and encourage shifting your body more frequently than a cushy office chair.
- Set a timer to remind you to stand up and move about for at least 10 minutes each hour. You can either walk, stand, or take the opportunity to do a few simple exercises by your desk. For an extensive list of videos demonstrating such exercises, please see my previous article, “Intermittent Movement Benefits Your Health. Here’s How to Get More of It into Your Work Day.”
- Use a standing workstation. For a demonstration on proper posture, whether you’re sitting or using a standing workstation, check out Kelly Starrett’s video. We are in the process of providing all our employees at mercola.com standing desk options. If you have a sit-down job, I would strongly encourage you to present this information to your employer and get a stand-up desk.
How to Sit Smarter
The evidence is overwhelming at this point—10,000 studies and growing—that prolonged sitting will reduce your lifespan by promoting dozens of chronic diseases, even if you exercise regularly. I’ve previously recommended standing up and doing exercises at your desk every 10-15 minutes to counteract the ill effects of sitting, but after reading Dr. Levine’s book, I’m convinced even that may be insufficient if you’re seeking optimal health. I really think the answer is to stand up as much as possible.
That said, sitting is sometimes necessary, so when you do sit following the recommendations by “posture guru” Esther Gokhale can go a long way toward improving posture-related pain associated with prolonged sitting, and will likely help ameliorate the worst risks of sitting. The basics of healthy sitting include the following points:
•Stack sitting: In order to allow the bones in your spine to stack well and permit the muscles alongside them to relax, sit with your behind sticking out behind you, but not exaggeratedly so. Now, when you breathe, each in-and-out breath will automatically lengthen and settle your spine.
This gentle movement stimulates circulation and allows natural healing to go on even while you sit. While conventional advice tells you to tuck in your pelvis to maintain an S-shaped spine, Esther has found that a J-spine is far more natural. A J-spine refers to a posture where your back is straight, your lumbar relatively flat, and your buttocks are protruding slightly. By tucking your pelvis, you lose about a third of the volume in your pelvic cavity, which squishes your internal organs. This can compromise any number of them in a variety of ways.
This is further compounded if you’re both “tucked” and “hunched” while sitting. This biomechanically correct posture allows you to move freely, discourages pain, and allows your digestive organs to function without restrictions or blockages.
•Stretch sitting. Another way to elongate your spine is by using your backrest as a traction device. You can see her demonstrate this move in the video below. You will need either a towel or a specially designed traction cushion for this purpose. This simple maneuver brings your back away from the backrest, lengthens your spine, and then roots you higher up against the backrest.
This position helps you maintain an elongated spine, and by getting traction on your discs, you allow them to rehydrate and prevent the nerves from being impinged between your vertebrae. It will also help flatten out your lumbar area, and this alone can sometimes provide immediate pain relief if you have sciatic nerve root pain.
Remember, however, that for optimal health sitting should be your last resort when you have no alternative. It is far better for you to stand than sit. It might take a bit to adjust but once you do it will be every bit as comfortable as sitting. As noted by Dr. Levine, while we clearly need to rest from time to time, that rest is supposed to break up activity—not the other way around. Inactivity—sitting—is not supposed to be a way of life