Sitting: It Takes Your Breath Away…

Worse For Breathing, Smoking or Sitting?

This blog post is continuing on the topic of potential health implications of sitting, and today we are talking about breathing. This topic is very applicable to the overall theme of “sitting is the new smoking”, since breathing is impacted by both of the above.

Breathing, like circulation, will happen on its own, whether you think about it or not. But, unlike circulation, you can actively change your breathing patterns moment to moment. For example, you can actively take a deep, relaxing breath; you cannot however consciously reduce or increase your hearth rate on a moments notice. This distinction is important to take advantage of, especially when sitting for long periods of time.

What is a Deep Breath?

First, lets define what a full, deep breath looks and feels like. Stand up, place your hands over your stomach, and breath in through your nose. While doing this, you should be actively breathing into your belly and feeling your hands move due to the expansion. Breath out through your mouth. Try this again, and release any tension you may notice in your shoulders or chest.

Photo by Cliff Booth on

Since our lungs are physically located in our chest/behind our ribs, the common misconception is that your chest should be the area that expands and contracts when you breath. “Chest breathing” results in shallow breaths, which are not as efficient and require you to take more of them. If you can think of your body’s response to panic, part of this involves rapid, shallow breaths. Contrast this to what you just felt with the “belly breathing” which was intentional, and relaxed.

Posture and Breathing

Photo by bruce mars on

Now, try this: sit down, up tall, shoulders back (good posture), place your hands on your stomach, and try to take that nice deep breath we walked through before. Feels different, right? More restricted, not as natural. Think about how a seated posture like the one pictured above impacts your breathing hour after hour, day after day.

Sitting compresses your abdominal cavity and rib cage, which naturally lends itself to more shallow breaths. The only way to counter the impacts of this posture is to take breaks, stand up, and spend some intentional time on your breathing.

Breathing and Mobility

Recently, while listening to The Maximus Podcast, I heard an interview with Dana Santas. One of Dana’s main areas of focus is the connection between breathing and mobility, and she has used these concepts to successfully training.

The basic idea focuses around mobility of your ribcage, and the relationship to breathing. Dana does a much better job explaining this, so I am going to directly quote her and link to the interview I found:

“Your ribcage position is dictated almost entirely by the quality of your breathing—essentially your ability to properly move your ribs during respiration to accommodate and facilitate diaphragm function. Your scapulae (shoulder blades) ride on your ribcage, so their position and your shoulder girdle function is also influenced by your breathing quality. If your breathing is consistently chest-oriented, your ribcage will be lifted and malpositioned, taking your scapulae with it. Muscles in your chest, neck, and upper back will be dysfunctionally recruited out of their primary roles/kinetic chains to hold your repositioned ribcage and scapulae in place, while assisting as accessory breathing muscles (since your diaphragm won’t be able to function properly).

This, of course, causes chronic tension, pain, and limitations in neck, back and shoulder mobility, while making you more susceptible to injury. All because of poor breathing! You can stretch out all of those muscles for temporary relief, BUT if you don’t permanently correct breathing mechanics, the pain and mobility limitations will remain chronic. This is why I work on breathing mechanics first and foremost. Instead of stretching those tight muscles (which would only give temporary relief, or worse, exacerbate injury risk), I can spend just two minutes working on breathing mechanics and immediately, significantly restore mobility.”

(Santas, 2017, Yoga Journal)

The thing that really blew my mind from Dana’s podcast interview was the most efficient position to take a deep breath. Take a look at my video overview of this topic to find out (you can skip to 5:10 if you just want to see this part)

Breathing and Sitting, What To Do About It

There is a common theme among all of these sitting posts, you need to take breaks from sitting. Here are some ideas to help facilitate deep breathing, every day and counter the impacts of sitting:

  1. Take a break at least every 30 minutes from sitting.
  2. During your breaks, take at least 5, deep belly breaths.
  3. Take a mental inventory of your shoulders and chest during these breaks, actively release any tension while taking deep breaths.
  4. Sit with good posture, this will result in better breathing than hunching over your computer.

Thanks for the read, please share with someone who needs it!

Sitting and Circulation

How Sitting Impacts your Circulation, and What to Do About It

One of the basic functions vital to life is circulation, and it happens automatically without us even thinking about it. You do not have to remind your heart to pump blood through your body and carry oxygen and vital nutrients, it just happens. For this reason, we may not spend a lot of time thinking about our circulatory system, and how sitting for long periods of time may have a negative impact.

Circulation 101

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Here are the basics of your circulatory system: your heart pumps oxygen rich blood away from your heart, carrying oxygen and nutrients to your brain, other vital organs, and tissues. The pressure created by your heart pumping carries the oxygen rich blood to its destination, but then it needs to return. Blood completes its loop through veins, which bring blood back to the heart and lungs for more oxygen and re-circulation.

Although your heart acts as a pump and helps move your blood through arteries and veins, veins also rely on movement and muscle contraction to complete the cycle. Veins are further away from the heart’s pressure, and therefor need a little bit of help in the form of basic movement.

How Sitting Impacts Blood Circulation

A garden hose works at its best with a steady supply of pressure, and no kinks. Kinks in a hose inhibit flow, inhibit efficiency, and can even stop flow all together if severe enough. Apply this principle to sitting, and think about how this posture can create natural bends and barriers for your circulation.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on

In addition to the posture of sitting, there is an inherit lack of movement which accompanies prolonged periods of sitting. During this period of time, your veins are not getting the assistance they need to help complete the process of circulating your blood. Thinking of the garden hose example, operating a kinked hose will have stressful impacts on the hose, spigot, and other components of the system because it is not working efficiently.

Lets Talk About It

Here is a quick video with visual examples of how sitting impacts circulation, and what we can do about it. This video includes discussion of another area of circulation, your lymphatic system. Your lymphatic system is part of your immune system, and has vessels, organs, and lymph fluid. Unlike your blood and system of vessels, the lymphatic system does not have a pump, and relies exclusively on movement and muscle contraction for circulation.

What Can We Do About It?

There are simple solutions to combating the negative impacts of sitting. If you have a sedentary job, you need to get up and move every 30 minutes; stand up, go for a walk up the hallway, go to your co worker’s office, just do some type of movement. If you have a physical job, your work is not as much of a challenge in this area. However, we all need to mindful of this when we travel for long periods of time, whether the mode be Planes, Trainers, or Automobiles. Always build in stretch breaks when you travel.

Please share this information with someone who needs it!

Sitting is The New Smoking?

A Series of blog posts all about why sitting is problematic, and what to do about it.

This is a longer post with lots of helpful video tutorials, here is a guide to breaking it up into sections:

  1. Understanding the Problem: Read the post and watch the video intro about issues sitting can cause for posture.
  2. Review video tutorials on stretching impacted muscle groups.
  3. Review video tutorials on strengthening and activating impacted muscle groups.

Have you found yourself sitting more than ever before?

If you have a sedentary, office job, or you have been working remotely, chances are you spend most of your day sitting. What do you do when you commute to work? Sitting. When you get some at the end of a long day? Probably sitting to eat dinner, watch TV, read a good book.

It has been said that “sitting is the new smoking” based on some of the negative health impacts that prolonged periods of sitting can lead to. My inspiration for writing this post is hearing from some of my co-workers during this remote work period. Common issues I hear are: its harder to find time/space to exercise, my back is stiff and sore…

If you have been staying home or working from home during the pandemic, chances are you will be sitting more than ever before. Even if you have an office job, most likely you get up to go to a break room, visit other offices or cubicles for meetings, walk to get lunch, walk to your car/transportation…not anymore.

Is Sitting The New Smoking?

Personally, I am not going as far as to say sitting is the new smoking. If you tell me I have to sit for 8 hours per day, I can think of a lot of strategies to counter the negative impacts. Tell me I have to smoke 2 packs per day, well, I’m not as confident about countering negative impacts (the science is settled, smoking is bad for you).

Lets Talk Sitting (Video Intro)

Issue #1: Stiff, Sore Back

In my video, I talk through the most commonly noticed issue of prolonged sitting, a stiff, sore back. A reason for this could be muscular imbalance (not medical advice, see my blog disclaimer). The posture of sitting causes certain muscle groups to become shorter, and tighter, and other muscle groups to become lengthened, and inactive.

Impact On Posture

Are You Really Standing Up Straight?

When you look in a mirror, can you draw a imaginary straight line through your head, shoulders, hips, knees, feet, down to the floor? Or does the line zig zag a little? Be honest now. We’re going to explore why sitting may be impacting your posture, even when you finally stand up.

The posture of sitting can lead to tightness in the following major muscle groups, due to time spent in a flexed (shortened) position:

  1. Hip Flexors
  2. Hamstrings
  3. Chest/Shoulders

On the other side of the equation, there are muscle groups that become lengthened, and/or inactive due to sitting:

  1. Quadriceps
  2. Glutes
  3. Abdominal Muscles
  4. Upper Back

What Does This Mean for Your Back?

Standing up straight requires mobility in the first group of muscles listed, and strength/activation from the second group of muscles. When you have an imbalance from prolonged sitting, the muscles in your lower back need to activate to hold you upright and fight against the imbalance. Essentially, the muscles in your lower back may be working double time due to the imbalances of the bigger, stronger muscles groups impacted by sitting (I’d be sore and tired too).

What To Do About It? Step 1: Stretching

It is important to understand the problem, before we jump right into solutions. Below are video tutorials on how to stretch the muscle groups impacted by sitting, take a look:

Step 2: Strengthen and Activate Your Abs, Glutes, Quads, Upper Back

Check out my post on the squat to learn about activating your quads and glutes.

The Deadlift-Your One Stop Shop for Strengthening/Activating Abs, Glutes, Quads, Upper back

Thanks for checking this post out, please share with someone who needs it!