We’ve all heard about how bad sitting is for us, but you might still be surprised to learn just how much of an issue it can be and how much damage you could be doing to your health as a result. Sitting for long periods of time does in fact put very serious strain on our health and there are a number of different ways it can cause big problems. Read on and we’ll look at what those are – and you may just find you choose to get up off the computer afterwards.
Your Spine and Posture
The first thing that sitting at a computer does is to ruin your spine and your posture. It does this by forcing us into a very natural position for very long periods of time. If you’re like most people, you will likely spend a great deal of your time either on the computer, driving, reading, playing games or doing other things that force you into a position where you’re sitting down and leaning forward.
This then creates a number of problems. For starters, your back will be angled forward towards your computer which will stretch your erector spinae and weaken them over time. These are the muscles tasked with keeping you standing upright, and when you get lower back pain in the morning they are very often the muscles responsible.
Meanwhile, you will have your shoulders rolling forwards which will cause your pecs to gradually shorten and tighten. This in turn means that even when you’re not on a computer, your shoulders remain pushed forwards and the top of your back stays hunched – a position we call ‘kyphosis’. To address this issue you can try standing up straighter and rolling your shoulders back/puffing your chest out – but that’s not going to immediately fix the problem.
Another issue is with your legs. For starters, you will be sitting on your glutes, which will again cause them to weaken. Meanwhile, having your legs lifted up forwards will cause your hip flexors (the muscles you use to raise your knee) to shorten and tighten in a similar manner to your pecs. This results in an imbalance in the force being applied to your pelvis, causing it to tilt forward slightly creating what’s known as a ‘hip tilt’.
Another problem with this posture is that it makes it difficult for us to breathe. Because our lower body is compressed, this means we can’t easily let our stomachs out which is actually what you’re meant to do when you breathe correctly. The net result is that we often end up breathing out of our chests, which limits the oxygen we take in and triggers hypertension and cortisol production (the hormone that causes stress and even contributes to obesity).
The broader problem is that we spend so much time stationary – which means our hearts and circulation aren’t working and that our body stores energy as fat. Not only does this lead to weight gain, but it can place strain on our heart eventually.
The solution is move around regularly when we’re working and take breaks, to get lots of exercise (especially walking) and to address any problems early with stretches from physical therapy.