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!

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