Sitting for extended periods of time and a sedentary lifestyle can lead to multiple health problems including obesity, heart disease, diabetes, back pain and poor posture. Many people feel stuck in a catch-22 because their job requires them to sit for several hours a day. The good news is that with a few targeted changes in their sitting habits, most of us can reduce our pain and health risk factors that come with our modern lifestyle.
Here's a few of my favorite tips that I teach my patients who have neck or back pain when they sit or are looking to reduce their sedentary habits. Start by implementing these ideas one-by-one and within a month, you should notice some nice improvements in how you feel and function!
Sitting Tip #1: Get up every 30 minutes.
Sitting for more than 30 minutes exponentially increases the pressure within the discs of your spine. There's also research showing that staying still for extended periods of time can also reduce blood flow to your muscles and fascia, leading to swelling and stiffness. A simple way to remedy this is to set a timer on your phone for 30 minutes and to stand up for 30 seconds every time it goes off during the day. You can do some back extensions, relief position stretches or even walk to the bathroom. That's all it takes to reset the clock and buy you more time.
Sitting Tip #3: Add more physical activity to your lifestyle.
We can't avoid sitting, but we can add more walking, squatting, lunging, climbing and lifting! National guidelines suggest that adults should aim for 150 min of moderate physical activity a week. That is equal to 30 min per day, five days a week. Moderate activity is something that gets you breathing more and you break a sweat. It could be housecleaning, running around with the kids, brisk walking or lifting weights at the gym. Motion is lotion and it offsets some of the effects of sitting.
Sitting Tip #3: Keep your spine aligned with good posture.
Most of us start slouching when we sit within a few minutes of relaxing in our chair. It's work to actively contract your postural muscles to maintain good posture when sitting, no matter how expensive your chair is. I often have to correct my patients' sitting posture as part of their recovery plan. Check out the video below where I demonstrate how to find the correct sitting posture and how to use McKenzie Lumbar Roll to reduce healing time when you have a neck or back injury.