Why Sitting is Bad for Your Health – Tips for Posture and Ergonomics

Source: Sagewood Wellness

Recent studies have shown that prolonged sitting can be detrimental to overall health, but a few adjustments in posture or your workspace can make a huge difference.

Why Sitting Is Bad For Your Health - Tips For Posture And Ergonomics - Sagewood Wellness CenterIn working with clients to relieve minor and/or chronic pain, I always look at the initial cause of the pain/injury, as well as identifying those activities and conditions that could be perpetuating the injury and resulting pain. I talk with people about posture and how they sit, because bad posture is one of the main culprits for pain in the back, shoulders and neck. Bad posture, improper sitting and a sedentary lifestyle can all create pain as well as exacerbate an existing condition or injury if not corrected.

Additionally, right after you sit down, your heart rate and the impulse activity in your muscles slow down and your caloric burn rate drops to around one calorie per minute. This is about a third of the calories that you burn during mild physical activity, such as walking. If you are prone to sitting for long periods, this can lead to more severe consequences including arthritis, type 2 diabetes and poor circulation, just to name a few.

Proper Sitting Tips – At the Office

The #1 problem I see occurring in office settings seems to be bad ergonomics and posture at a desk. If not corrected, these common situations may lead to more serious health issues down the road.

For example, improper back and lumbar support, “slumping” or leaning over in your chair and leaning forward to see your computer screen, are all common bad habits found in most office settings that create tension in the back, shoulders and hips, leading to more serious issues over time. Adjusting your chair to the proper height, moving your monitor closer or getting reading glasses can be easy fixes for these situations. Having your computer screen too high or too low or not directly in front of you can cause you to bend your neck in a manner that creates tension and possible long term problems if not corrected. Not having arm rests on your office chair or arm rests that are improperly adjusted (too high or too low) will cause the arms to be improperly supported resulting in additional pressure to the neck, shoulders and wrists. Also, your wrists should always be straight, not bent. When your wrists are bent, it puts additional pressure on these areas and creates constriction of the carpal tunnel in the wrist which can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome if not corrected.

Why Sitting Is Bad For Your Health - Sitting Posture - Sagewood Wellness Center

Proper Sitting Tips – In Your Car

We spend so much time in our cars, especially here in Southern California, where the traffic gets heavy and commute times are longer than average. Bad posture and improper support while sitting in a car can create pain and exacerbate injuries. I’ve also seen instances where someone is either too tall or too short for their car, and no amount of adjustment of the seat and steering wheel will correct the bad posture created by the situation. If someone spends more than 1 hour a day driving, then this can create repetitive stress and pain. It’s not just repetitive movement that creates soft tissue damage and pain, but repetitive non-movement (as in prolonged sitting) can cause painful conditions as well. For instance, when we sit for hours in a car or at a computer, some muscles (like our hip flexors and ham strings) become over-shortened. Over time, taut bands of muscle fibers develop (“knots”) and trigger points follow, which can create debilitating pain and reduce job effectiveness and productivity.

When sitting in a car, your shoulders should be relaxed and the back rest should not be leaning too far back. Head rest should not be pushing head forward but lying just to the back of the head to protect the head and neck from being whipped backward in the event of an accident. Your arms should not be held straight out in front – this puts too much weight and stress on the shoulders. Rather, your elbows should be bent to take the strain off the shoulders. Seat position should not be so far back that legs are straight in front of you. Legs should be bent at the knees with foot resting comfortably on gas pedal or clutch.

Proper Sitting Tips – At Home

Much like sitting at your desk, bad sitting habits and repetitive slumping when sitting at home can cause long term issues as described above. When you are at home, slouching on the couch can cause accumulative muscle strain, as can sitting in a “comfy” worn-out chair that no longer gives you proper support. Many people don’t want to give up that favorite old chair because it’s so “comfy”. What they don’t realize, is that it’s most likely damaging them and adding to their physical pain. It’s like an old mattress that gets worn out in the middle and no longer provides proper back support, or a pair of worn out shoes. When it no longer provides proper support, it’s time to get rid of that old chair and get a new one.

 

Why Sitting Is Bad For Your Health - Sagewood Wellness Center

Proper Sitting Quick Tips

  • Don’t slump or lean (left, right or forward) in your seat.
  • Be conscious of your posture as you are sitting and make sure your back/neck are straight.
  • Make sure to have to have proper lumbar support.
  • Make sure your feet are in proper position – flat on floor (desk/home) or on pedals (car).
  • Adjust armrests properly and make sure they are bent, not straight out.
  • Wrists should be straight and not bent when typing.
  • Remember to stand up and try to move or walk around once an hour.
  • Use a timer on your phone to remind yourself to get up.
  • Try to stretch when you get up and/or do desk stretches.
  • Try to get at least 30 minutes of physical activity per day.
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