For several years now we’ve been inundated with headlines about the perils of too much sitting:
“Sitting Is the New Smoking!”
“Is Sitting Making You Prone to Diabetes?”
“Losing Your Memory? Maybe You Sit Too Much.”
Sitting is so bad, we’re told, one would almost expect it to be responsible for wildfires, hurricanes and political strife. (It’s not.) And it’s reasonable to point out the popular medical saying, “Correlation does not equal causation.” Put simply, just because one thing is associated with another doesn’t mean the first caused the second.
We certainly need more research on the health effects of sitting, but the connection between sitting and musculoskeletal issues is clear. Tech Neck is a real ailment. And slouching at your desk can decondition your back muscles, leading to back pain and a cascade of other aches and pains, including headaches and tingling in the hands and fingers. In fact, these problems are so significant that May has been designated Posture Month, dedicated to helping people avoid the negative impact of extended sitting and technology use.
So whether all the claims about sitting prove accurate in the long run, one thing is clear: The modern eight-hour, butt-in-seat workday is not healthy.
But wait! The headline of this article says there is good news about sitting.
And there is. Sitting too much can be a bad thing, but you don’t have to quit your job to solve the problem. There are simple steps you can take to help counteract the effects of sitting. Compared with changes needed to lose weight or quit smoking, this is downright easy. In fact, you can probably make some of these changes right now.
1. Pay attention to how you sit. Most of us sit down at our desk and start pounding away at the keyboard. But there is a proper way to sit to limit negative effects. Physical therapists Dr. Evan Johnson and Dr. Rami Said of The Spine Hospital at the Neurological Institute of New York offer guidelines for setting up your workstation and maintaining proper posture while working. Start with these tips to minimize any negative effects of the sitting you can’t avoid.
2. Pay attention to how long you sit. Set a timer for every 20-30 minutes to remind yourself to stand, stretch and adjust your posture. At least once every two hours, get up and walk around. A quick five-minute walking break can get the blood flowing to your muscles and limit the impact of extended sitting sessions.
3. Look for alternatives to sitting. Make it a point to stand for certain tasks. For example, if you are on the phone, take that opportunity to stand up. If you need to discuss an issue with a colleague, do it while walking a lap around the building. You’ll still get your work done, but you’ll also be benefiting your (and your colleague’s) health.
And if you really want to make a change, you can try a standing workstation. A big investment isn’t necessary, though; try a variety of surfaces in your office to find a spot that works for you.
4. Focus on habit change to improve your posture. Old habits are hard to break, so why not make a concerted effort to break those bad habits by replacing them with new, healthy habits? For Posture Month, a 31-day challenge was created to help you make the transition.
Posture Month takes place in May, but don’t let the calendar stop you from making changes. Any month is a good month to build new, healthy habits.
Learn more about our Spine Hospital physical therapists on their bio pages below: