Dr. Greg's Blog

Monday, October 27, 2014

Why Sitting is So Bad

It is not news that sitting is bad for you. Phrases like “Sitting is the new smoking” and “it’s the next great plague on our society” are getting people’s attention. As a Chiropractic Physician, I subscribe to these dramatic statements, but not for the reasons many others do.

In an article recently published by Time Magazine titled “Sitting is Killing You”, the author discusses how sitting is bad for you because you burn fewer calories than you would doing most other things. Her message is almost as if simply burning more calories is the secret to good health. This is not the case.

The Real Problem with Sitting

It is not the burning of fewer calories that make sitting so bad for us; it is the lack of movement. Movement is the key to many of our body’s mechanisms that keep us healthy and in good working order.

Movement plays a vital role in circulating blood, especially the blood from your legs. If you have never heard of a pulmonary embolism, it is when blood pools and clots within the veins in the leg (usually) then makes its way to the lungs and blocks an artery – leading to death in 30% of cases. Think about that on your next overseas flight or when you’re hunkering down for a Netflix marathon!

The lymphatic system is totally reliant on muscle contraction. Your lymphatic system is a major component of the immune system. Our lymph nodes can also filter foreign material from our blood stream, such as bacteria and cancer cells. Without movement this system can’t function – a perfect environment for disease and infection to take hold.

Healthy joints require movement. Movement feeds hydrating nutrients to the intervertebral disks of your spine, as well as the cartilage lining the rest of our joints. Without this, joints become stiff and painful – we’ve all experienced this at times. Sit for six to eight hours straight each day and before you know it you’re not sitting because you want to; you’re sitting because you HAVE to. It’s a cycle that feeds itself; stagnation = pain = stagnation.

Sitting is terrible for your posture. Some people are more conscious of this than others, but you will find most people with their shoulders hunched and necks cranked forward when sitting. As if that is not bad enough, what you can’t see is the tightening of a muscle called the psoas; a major contributor to back issues. These postures create dysfunction across the entire musculoskeletal system and it’s scary just how long we can endure contorting ourselves in these ways when we’re focused on the screen in front of us.

What can you do?

For many people sitting eight hours a day is a fact of life. Behind a desk is where they complete their work and there is no changing it. Having access to a convertible sit/stand desk is best, but with price tags starting at $1000 this may not be realistic for everyone. Alternatively, incorporating a few simple habits can help:

- Keep your feet flat on the floor to promote better circulation
- Use a split keyboard to help keep your back straighter.
- Fidget or rock, if you can to promote better circulation in your lower extremities.
- Set reminders for you to get up and move. Shoot for every 30 minutes.
- Move your printer out of arm’s reach.
- Drink lots of water to stay well hydrated and so you have to walk to the restroom more often.

Author: Dr. Gregory Roberts; a Lakeville Chiropractor and owner of Upright Health, with credentials in Corrective Exercise and certifications in Active Release Techniques® and Graston Technique®.

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