After a long day at the office and, time spent commuting; I enjoy sitting down and reading a book or watching sports on TV. However, I often wonder, is all of this sitting too much? Sometimes, I feel like I left an imprint of myself on the couch after a good game.
I don't think I'm alone. As a physical therapist, I encounter many people who present to the clinic with the consequences of inactivity. They tell me: "But I move a lot!" "I get up and head over to the water cooler," "I take a few minutes to stretch my legs." These are a few things that I hear often.
We know from research that increased time spent sedentary or seated increases the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. As our society has made huge advancements, the technology often keeps us tethered to a chair.
If you do have to sit for a long period of time, the first thing you want to do is make sure you are in the optimal position. Think about keeping your ears over your shoulders and your shoulders over your hips. That way you maintain a neutral position which the body loves.
Give your body breaks. What I mean by break is a change from the position you are currently in—example, rolling your shoulders or moving your eyes away from the computer screen. If you are able to give your body a break every 15-30 minutes you have a better chance of avoiding harmful, repetitive and positional injuries.
Here are five basic movements you can do to change your position and get your body moving:
Seated Hamstring stretch: Sit at the edge of your chair and extend one of your legs straight. With a neutral spine bent at the waist until you feel a gentle pull. Hold for 30 seconds.
Spinal/Trunk rotation: Sit at the edge of your chair and rotate your trunk by reaching with your arm in the opposite direction. Hold for 5-10 seconds and perform 5-10 times.
Trunk extension: sit all the way back in your chair. With your hands clasped behind your neck, extend your trunk back, bending backwards. Hold for 5-10 seconds and perform 5-10 times.
Pillar stretch: sit at the edge of your chair maintaining a neutral/straight back. With your hands clasped over your head, lift your arms up and down. Hold for 5-10 seconds and perform 5-10 times.
Cat/Camel: Sit at the edge of your chair. Gently flex your trunk forward then gently extend your trunk back. Hold for 1-2 seconds at the end of your range and repeat 10 times.
I think sometimes we forget that we are designed to move and not be sedentary. Your body craves movement. It wants to be in the optimal position; otherwise, you might develop problems- maybe not immediately, but down the road. We all get into our "grooves;" whether trying to complete a project at work or doing something recreational like reading a nice book. It is easy not to pay attention to your posture or position during those times. However, it is in those times that you want to be aware.
To be honest, maybe it's a little unrealistic to expect "perfect" posture all the time. I certainly know I'm guilty of slouching on the coach every now and then. Just remember-in order to minimize the aforementioned ills of inactivity and stationary positions, get up and move and take a break.
Dr. Smith is an Advanced Clinician I at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital's Center City Outpatient clinic JeffFit. He is a guest contributor on Sports Doc.