Sitting is the New Smoking & What to do About it?
If this article grabbed your attention, chances are you sit very often. Now, I understand that sitting may be part of your job description, but does sitting too long lead to things like muscle imbalance, increased risks for chronic diseases, low back pain, hip pain, knee pain, and a whole host of other issues? So if sitting is the new smoking, how bad is it really?
The average American spends nearly 18-21 minutes commuting in one direction and they work approximately 40-45 hours per week. Additionally, the average American watches nearly 5 hours of television per day. Combine all this, and you total nearly 50 or more hours in the seated position (and yes, this is likely an underestimate). Keep in mind this does not include sitting down for breakfast, lunch, dinner, overtime, leisure, etc.
Sitting and Health Risks
If you trace back your ancestors, they obviously did not have computers, iPhones, and television. What they did have was a tremendous amount of functional movements. Our ancestors completed basic tasks that included picking up branches to build a shelter, hunting/gathering food, exploring nearby territory in search of new resources, and probably the most important thing with regard to health and social bonding, playtime.
Since our development, technology has advanced and we have gotten more and more used to sitting. Chronic diseases and pain have become part of our culture worldwide but is there really a connection between them?
Not shockingly, YES, there is a connection between sedentary behavior and an increased risk for disease. It appears that study after study had indicated that the increased exposure to computers, television, and sitting is a major cause for the demise of societies health
Lower Crossed Syndrome
Functionally, your body really does take a beating when you sit too long! Over time, sitting weakness the core musculature and the glut muscles, while at the same time creating very tight hip flexors and tight low back muscles. Allow this posture to occur for a few weeks, months, or years and you will develop what is known as lower crossed syndrome.
Lower crossed syndrome simply put, is an improper muscle balance of the hips, core and spine. With any muscle imbalance, it alters your posture and the way your body functions. Structure affects function and vice versa. Therefore, sitting and whether or not you take care of your body can influence your pain and performance.
Eventually if this left unchecked you will likely develop chronic low back pain, pelvic pain, hip pain, knee pain, and/or leg pain. It can and will predispose you to injuries!
Take a look at some of the illustrations and you can easily see what sitting can do to your body.
Muscles that become weak include the following:
Rectus Abdominis (Core)
Transversus Abdominis (Core)
Glut Maximus, Medius, and Minimus (Hip Stabilizers)
Quadricep muscles (thigh muscle group)
Tibialis anterior and posterior (leg muscle)
Personeus Longus (leg muscle)
Muscles that become too tight include the following:
Psoas (hip flexor)
Rectus Femoris (hip flexor)
Hamstring (hip and knee muscle)
Erector Spinae (Low Back)
Tensor Fascia Lata (Hip flexor)
Thigh Adductor (Hip/thigh muscle)
Piriformis muscle (hip rotaror)
Quadratus lumborum (low back muscle)
Gastroc/Soleus (Leg muscles)
Can it be fixed?
Yes, but you are going to have to work for it! Simply put, you need to take all the above muscles mentioned and strengthen the weak ones while stretching the tight ones. At first glance, it seems like a lot but the body works in synergy and by working one group of muscles correctly, you can be working others to facilitate a better outcome.
Okay, So What Can I Do?
- Strengthening the Core and Gluts
- Planks, Pelvic Tilts, Bridges, Hip Extensions, Bird-Dog Exercise
Stretch the Low Back and Hips
- Psoas/Hip Flexor Stretch, Quadricep Stretch
- Quadricep Stretch, QL and Erector Stretching
The good news
Lower crossed syndrome is mostly preventable and treatable with corrective exercises and good posture . A little can really go a long way and if you want to expedite your return to better posture, health, better performance, you have several options. You can see a health care professional, increase the number of times you do your exercises, and decrease the amount time you sit and/or watch television. Research indicates that high levels of moderate physical activity (60-75 min per day) can eliminate the risk of death associated with prolonged sitting time. Unfortunately, adding exercises still seems to not help with regard to sitting time due to TV! So if anything, sitting while watching TV is the new smoking.