Sitting has become the most popular position in the modern workday. On average, the majority of workers sit 9 hours a day. Sitting has become so ingrained into our way of living that we do not even question how much we are doing it. It’s an unfortunate reality of modern society.
ost of us think that jobs involving physical labour put workers at a greater risk for injury. Lifting heavy equipment, carrying supplies, pushing materials or exerting force in any way can cause sudden sprains and strains that can lead to tissue damage and potentially pain. Injuries can happen gradually over time or suddenly when you least expect it. One day you could be busy at work and the next day you could be sitting at home with an ice pack on your back, applying for sick leave. We have to remember that physical labour is not the only cause of work related injuries. Inactivity or hours of sitting hunched over in front of a computer can also lead to chronic injuries.
So, the question is how can we avoid or at least reduce the damage caused by extended periods of sitting?
For starters, learning how to sit properly will set you up on the right path to success. Sitting is one of the most technically challenging things we do. In order to stabilize our spine when sitting we need to ensure our core is engaged. This involves keeping at least twenty percent tension in our abs to maintain a rigid spine. Yes, that is correct we should all be activating our core when sitting! This helps explain why most people revert into horrible positions of hunching forward or overextending only after a couple minutes of sitting. Slouching forward or overextending our posture is more comfortable and doesn’t require any work from our core. Maintaining a stable position, on the other hand, takes extreme focus and abdominal endurance.
The best way to avoid falling into bad habits and poor sitting positions is to stand up and get reorganized every 15 to 20 minutes. It’s almost impossible to remain in a good position for anything longer than that. I realize that this seems annoying and sometimes unrealistic, but if you want to avoid injuries and keep your body healthy you have to put in the effort.
Another helpful strategy is to change your position as often as possible. You have to remember that you don’t need to stay in a seated position all the time. You can kneel in front of the computer to open up your hips while answering emails, go for a walk while talking on the phone, or even stretch while sitting at your desk.
In addition to getting up and changing your position, focus on restoring function to the tissues that become adaptively short and tight after long periods of sitting. Tightening and shortening of tissues may not be a problem initially, but after long periods of sitting they can begin to wreak havoc on our bodies. The idea is to tackle the areas that become restricted, such as your hip flexors, thoracic spine, shoulders and neck.
If you find yourself suffering from a workplace sprain/strain or currently sit at a desk everyday and want to eliminate the risk of developing an injury, try and be proactive and do something about it. Even small changes can go a long way to improve your posture and decrease a number of health risks.
According to the Mayo Clinic cardiologist Martha Grogan, “for people who sit most of the day, their risk of a heart attack is about the same as smoking”. Other health risks that come from prolonged time sitting are disrupting your glucose levels and metabolism, and increasing the risk of type 2 diabetes. The good news is, if you can reduce the long periods you spend sitting, you can reduce your risk of having diabetes, heart disease, and/or musculoskeletal injuries.