Is sitting the new smoking?

By Josh Betteridge

Hello,
 
Are you sitting comfortably? Great, we’ll get started. Most of us reading this will be either relaxing on the sofa, tucked into their work station or on the daily public transport commute. Lets dive a little further into why this can be causing you unsuspecting problems…
 
I’m sure we’ve all picked up on something in the media recently suggesting how sitting down for long periods of time increases your chances of disease and muscular pain? Fear not, there are a few key ways to assist you in preventing and curing such issues.
 
To begin, let’s rewind back to our ancestors 50,000 years ago who would run, walk and jump around all day keeping their musculoskeletal systems active and switched on. They would climb trees to hunt food and sprint after prey day after day using their body through full range of movements. Our bodies were designed for this sole reason! Compare this against the 21st century human who sit, inactive for long periods of the day whether it be at work, in the car or on the sofa.
 
Sitting is an activity which does not involve much energy expenditure (obviously). Thus, our bodies increase glucose levels in the blood and decrease the good cholesterols. This occurs because our body believes we are in a storage phase due to the low-level activity which ultimately makes us resistant to insulin. There are numerous studies being concluded with these findings and more empirical evidence is being produced too!
 
As soon as we sit down…
1. Our calorie burning reduces to 1 per minute
2. Enzymes which break down fat decrease by 90%
3. Electrical stimulation in our legs (essential for muscular contraction) switches off.
 
At this point most of us are now having a bit of a panic and get out for a run only to return 10 minutes later with potentially what feels like a torn calf or sciatica or a groin pull and so on….. and most importantly, a reason to discontinue exercise.
 
The reason why we feel this pain is due to the muscular imbalances which have derived from a poor postural foundation due to long periods of sitting. Once we decide to chuck the skins on and jog around Hyde park, our bodies are not balanced well enough to deal with the stresses which are placed on the muscular system. We are quite literally running before we can walk.
 
Jump up for a moment and stand up straight. Take your hand and feel one of your hip flexors (the muscles at the front which cross the hip joint). Don’t be shy to get stuck in a little bit – I’m sure you feel that ropey and tight muscular band? The tight muscle you are feeling is pulling your hips forward and creating this muscular imbalance.
 
This can be applied to many areas of the body. For example, if you press into where your pectorals insert in the front of the shoulder you’ll also feel plenty of tension.
 
With our hips constantly flexed and our arms always outstretched forward in a seated position, our brain recognises this as your ‘normal’ position. As our brain is a clever piece of equipment it remembers what we do day after day. So, to help us be really really good at sitting down, it tries to put our body in a nice seated posture producing very tight, overactive hip flexors and shoulder internal rotators.
 
What this means for the body when we exert ourselves is some muscles are working too hard and others are not working enough. 
 
All we need to do is restore balance and alter the load correctly through the musculoskeletal system! This simply results in pain-free exercise.
 
Get those hips and arms moving! We see many people with chronic pain due to long periods of sitting. With a few pro-active lifestyle changes you can prevent such problems:
 
1) Tissue Release
Targeting restricted myo-fascia reduces pain and increases range of movement to assist in reaffirming muscular balances and symmetry through your body.
 
2) Corrective Exercise
Once you have restored range of movement to a joint it’s imperative to build your body back up in a balanced, strong fashion to keep you fit and healthy for life even if you’re desk-bound!
 
3) Move!
Don’t email Claire downstairs about lunch. Get up from your seat, use the stairs and start activating those muscles more regularly. Get a few jumping jacks on the go or march on the spot. Activation of joints and muscles prevent them from becoming dominant, stiff and glued together.
 
4) Get off the sofa!
Those who sit for more than 3 hours a day watching TV are 64% more likely to die from heart disease. We sit down enough at work, don’t add to the problem away from the office.
 
5) Dynamic Stretching
Put your body into positions it’s not been for a long time. How many of you could squat down and get your ass to grass without falling over?
 
So, are you sitting comfortably?

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