Can you actually sit too much?

Can you actually sit too much?

by Steven D'Onofrio July 29, 2020

These days, there’s a whole lot of sitting down going on: sitting down all day at work, sitting down driving to and from work, then sitting down to eat, and sitting down to watch television to unwind at night. A sedentary lifestyle has become a real issue and can really affect our overall well being. 

We weren't built to sit all day
Even as I sit to write this blog, I can’t help but pick up certain issues that arise when I spend more than 1 hour sitting at any given time. I start to get fidgety, restless and uncomfortable. I find myself adjusting my seated position, leaning over to one side or poking my neck forward. Even with the most ergo-friendly chair, you can’t help but feel “I wasn’t built for this”, and in fact, we weren’t. Now I know sitting at work in an office, or in meetings is part and parcel of most jobs these days, and for those that do, we need to make a conscious effort to ensure we keep our bodies moving consistently where we can throughout the day. This goes for people that stand or do repetitive movement type of work (such as a tradie, personal trainer, doctor or security guard). 

Tradies aren't the only ones doing back breaking work
A common thing I hear from my tradie clients is that “I don’t need to train as much as others because I’m on my feet all day and get tired doing that”. Although they might be right to the point that, yes, they are moving far more than an accountant glued to a computer screen, a lot of the movements that both of these professions are doing can be an ailment to our posture and general wellbeing. For example a stonemason that is carrying 100-200 kg worth of stone bench tops, all day, every day, can develop chronic lower back, neck and shoulder issues if they are not correctly lifting and also warming up and stretching the body before and after. An accountant that is sitting on their bottom all day everyday can also experience neck, shoulder and lower back pain due to similar “chronic issues'' developed from their line of work too. A lot of this has to do with RSI or repetitive strain injury. As humans there is only so much back breaking work our bodies can take without properly servicing our bodies to ensure we can continue to do the things we love for longer.

It's about a variety of movements
I’m a personal trainer, business owner, soccer player and weight lifter, so my daily life consists of many types of different and repetitive movements. If I fail to look after my body, I will eventually break. Although I look after my body the best way I can, there is always the risk of acute or impact injuries that happen along the way. I find living a healthy, abundant, nurturing and strong lifestyle, conditions your body to withstand all that life can throw at you. Now I’m not saying that by training, meditating or stretching everyday it will reduce your risk of breaking a leg from a bad tackle during football, but it will help to keep your body limber, strong and agile to deal with certain set backs or reduce the impact of those acute injuries.

Sitting down and your posture
Rounded shoulders and a protruding neck is probably the most common ailment in office type professions such as gamers, computer technicians, accountants and lawyers. This is purely down to the fact they require high amounts of sitting and hunching over a desk, computer screen or book. What actually happens is your chest muscles start to tighten, and the muscles in your back such as your rhomboids, upper and lower trapezius become too weak to support your head and shoulders, causing them to protrude or round out. The best thing you can do is regularly stretch out your chest muscles and strengthen your upper back muscles and try not to spend more than a couple hours at a time sitting in a hunched position. Try standing up against a wall in an anatomical position: place your heels, bum, back and head against the wall with your hands facing outward, does this posture feel tight, awkward and uncomfortable? Or is it fine? If it’s the first option, then your posture can do with some work!

Lower back pain
A lot of people that experience lower back pain usually resort to applying heavy doses of pain killing cream or medicines, which attack the direct spot where it hurts. More often that not, lower back pain is a knock on effect of other muscles not working correctly, resulting in a sore lower back. I will always recommend consulting with a professional to properly diagnose the cause, and like to help my clients focus on this cause so that we can find ways where fitness and training can help alleviate the pain. If sitting all day has your lower back feeling sore, then your glutes and hamstring muscles aren’t firing, resulting in those muscles becoming weaker, switching off and tightening up. This can lead to your hip flexors and psoas muscles tightening and shifting your hips forward. Stretching or releasing the tension in your psoas, hip flexors, piriformis and glute maximus can help with general tightness, and improve pelvic position and posture. There are other common lower back issues such as arthritis, cartilage degeneration and bulging disks, which would be best to seek professional advice and have proper diagnosis and treatment plans.

Just move, even just a little bit
Sitting down all day is actually highly stressful for the body. The lack of incidental exercise or movement throughout the day can place a lot of pressure on your cardiovascular system, impact your heart health and in turn lead to stress. All this can lead to excessive weight gain and in particular visceral fat gain, which is the fat that surrounds our vital organs. Having a high amount of visceral fat can lead to heart disease, type 2 diabetes and other life threatening diseases. Practice moving more, whether you park 10-15 minutes away from the train station or office, ride a bicycle into work, go for a walk at lunch and ensure you hit the gym regularly! Sedentary lifestyles are becoming a real problem for our society and are contributing to our rise in obesity throughout the world. The greatest wealth is indeed your health, and now more ever we need to prioritise our wellbeing so we can enjoy life to the fullest!

Steven D'Onofrio
Steven D'Onofrio


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