Offsetting Your Sitting
I just read a new article that I thought was worth writing about, How scientists have determined how much exercise you need to do to "offset" a day of sitting. With this global pandemic, people are more confined to indoor spaces, working virtually from home a lot more, not going to gyms and in my opinion, we are participating much less in vigorous physical activity.
Given that the most recent global estimates show that one in four (27.5%) adults and more than three-quarters (81%) of adolescents do not meet the recommendations for aerobic exercise, as outlined in the 2010 Global Recommendations on Physical Activity for Health, this is a problem that needs attention and action.
Take a moment and think about your average day? I find that most people underestimate how much they really sit on an average day. The average amount of time spent sitting is 6.5 hours for adults and over 8 hours for teenagers. The human body from a physics and mechanical perspective was NOT designed to sit for this amount of time EVERY DAY and so this is taking a massive toll on our individual health and overall productivity. I like to tell my patients who sit for a living, 70% of the American workforce, that if the human body was designed for a lot of sitting, God would have built us with four legs like a chair, not the two legs we were given. We are designed to stand, move, and be active. Almost every important system in our body from our cardiovascular system, to our digestive system, to our brain and energy production, works much better when we are active vs. sitting and/or sedentary.
As a Chiropractor, I understand body mechanics, posture, and proper movement and how this relates to long-term health and quality of life. I would tell you that sitting for long periods of time over years and decades is one of the worst things that you can do for your spine and your ability to move well as you age. Sitting increases the compression to your spine by over 40% and if you sit in a forward, slouchy position, it can increase that compression to over 90%. This is why I see SO many problems in people's spines on x-ray and MRI's, such as disc problems and degenerative arthritis. Our spines wind up in the positions we put them in the most. Look at our postures when we stand, especially our young adults. Most people hunch forward and it looks like many of us are living in a bell tower like Quasimodo.
Here is what sitting does to our body: 1) Strained Neck – Often when sitting at a desk, we have a habit of stretching our neck forward towards the keyboard and monitor, which can strain the vertebrae in your neck.
2) Sore Shoulders – Slumping forward overextends the shoulder muscles, and we often round the shoulders and chest inwards, leading to tense shoulders and upper back.
3) Inflexible Spine – When we don’t move, collagen around the tendons and ligaments in the spine hardens, restricting our range of motion, increasing our chance of an injury.
4) Weakened Abs – Your abdominal muscles have very little to no engagement when sitting, and as they weaken they can lead to the spine overarching, creating back issues.
5) Shortened Hips – The hip flexors are contracted when sitting, which over time become so shortened that range of motion, stride length, and balance are limited.
6) Weakened Glutes (no ass-at-all syndrome) – Like abs, glutes are virtually unused when sitting. With less strength in your glutes, it’s difficult to maintain postural stability and movement agility.
So what is the solution to the problem of sitting too much? Up to 40 minutes of "moderate to vigorous-intensity physical activity" every day is about the right amount to balance out 10 hours of sitting still, research says – although any amount of exercise or even just standing up helps to some extent. That's based on a meta-analysis across nine studies, involving a total of 44,370 people in four different countries who were wearing some form of fitness tracker. This may seem obvious but common sense isn't common practice. Most of us know WHAT to do. However, the WANT to do or making the time to do is lacking.
Here are some simple solutions: 1. Set reminders in your phone's calendar alert to get up and move. Take a break from sitting to take a walk somewhere, even if it's for no reason but to get some fresh air.
2. Meet someone to exercise. I find it harder to exercise alone. I like meeting in a group to "suffer together" through the pain of exercise. Let's face
it, if you are exerting yourself at a high level, it can be uncomfortable being out of breath and trying to do that last rep when your muscles are fatigued and giving up. You'll commit more and do more when you have people motivating you and holding you accountable.
3. Get a standing desk. There is SO much research coming out on the benefits of standing desks. They have also come way down in price so if you sit for a living consider getting one. This is an investment, NOT an expense. An investment that could save your life or add years to your quality of life over the long haul.
4. Sit correctly- Your head should be over your shoulders and your shoulders should be over your hips. Lumbar supports are good because they put the normal lordotic curve in your back that helps to decompress your spine. Get tall and long when you sit.
5. Get a fitness tracker and track your movement. We know that an object in motion stays in motion and how well you move will largely determine how well you live. So tracking our movement is one of the most important pieces of data we can track. I use 2 movement trackers. An Oura ring and a My Zone fitness tracker when I exercise. One tells me how much I moved all day and the other tells me how hard I exerted myself when I worked out. In other words, how many calories I burned and what my "effort level" was over the time I exercised.
You've probably heard that "sitting is the new smoking". However, unlike cigarettes, which you can give up cold turkey, sitting is something that needs to be balanced through conscious thought and regular exercise.