Whatever sport you do you’re no doubt putting in endless hours of specific training, along with maybe some alternative recovery and rehab sessions like yoga and stretching. However, like most people, there’s even one more activity you’re probably doing more of than even sleeping – sitting! It’s the new epidemic.
We all spend too much time sitting. Whether it’s in the car, at work, at home or at the dinner table – you always find yourself sitting. This situation gets even worse if your job involves a computer. If you do have a job where a computer is an essential part of your day, chances are you spend more time sitting in front of a screen than you do exercising.
If sitting were a sport, we’d probably all be World Champions. How many hours a week do you think you sit for? A full-time desk job could have you sitting for 40 hours a week. I bet if you checked your Strava, your training hours would be around 6 to 8 for the above average athlete – way less than the time you spend sitting.
It’s obvious that when we sit for most of our week, slouching hours at a time in front of a computer, problems are inevitably going to occur. Muscular imbalances, lower back pain, tightness, all of which can carry across into our training causing more pain, stresses and even injuries. You probably end up looking like this for most of your day:
Sitting is the new epidemic. Not so much the act of sitting, but how we sit – slouching, neck forward, shoulders internally rotated, lower back collapsing. Core muscles disengaged. Glutes asleep. Hip-flexors and hamstrings shortened. Just like the image here.
Those that train for many hours and then hold an office job can tell you how bad this recipe is. What you think is a training issue stems from prolonged sitting after your workouts. Added to this could be RSI from your computer mouse, screen and a bad office chair. Your workouts may not be enough to counteract prolonged sitting. In fact, even a yoga class during the week may still not be enough to wake up sleepy glutes, undo tight hamstrings and wound up iliotibial bands.
So what can you do? The solution is to treat your sitting, as an extension of your overall training. Seek ways to cultivate healthy postural habits throughout the day that will positively transfer to your sport.
What’s key is to be as disciplined in the way you sit, as that you give your training sessions. Correct posture is key and a big part of this is how you set up your sitting spaces [like your office desk]. Click here for more info.
You need to sit up in that chair, keeping your back straight with a slight forward pelvic tilt to maintain the lordosis of your lower back. Your head should be in a neutral position – meaning that you might have to lift your computer screen right up. Roll your shoulders back and let your scapula’s move down your back. Your ears should be aligned over your shoulders, and your shoulders over your hips to avoid that forward slouch.
Stand up desks are gaining popularity – as it’s said it will be better posture for you, however you still need to be very careful. You can still ‘slouch’ while standing – and in fact contribute to sitting issues.
Caitlin, one of our Senior Physiotherapists here at Barefoot Physiotherapy, reminds me all the time that “the best position, is the next position”. So, at the least, incorporate frequent breaks into your workday to break up extended hours of sitting or standing at a desk. Lunch break walks, having to move to get to the printer will all assist your body. In fact a friend of mine ensures that they drink water all day, not to just stay hydrated, but to get you walking to the toilet.
There’s so many things you can do at your desk, in your chair or while standing in your office cubicle. Muscle activation exercises and stretching is always available to you, and don’t make you look too stupid to your work colleagues. In fact, when you begin to stretch, it’s infectious – anyone watching will usually start to do the same and comment, “oh yeah, I need to do some of that”. Here’s 10 ideas to get you moving:
- Nod your head as you would say yes, then increase the range of movement so that your chin touches your chest and then look raise your head and look at the ceiling above you. Then gently tilt the head from side to side, ears to shoulders.
- Roll your shoulders, forward and backwards – feel how awesome that is.
- Interlock your fingers behind your back, straighten your arms and stretch the front body. Look up, look down while you do this.
- Just stand up! Do number 3. Above while standing in a gentle lunge – oh yeah.
- While standing, you can do a forward bend and stretch the hamstrings and calves. For the more adventurous, stand on one leg as you bend the raised foot to your glutes for a lovely quadricep stretch. Push that hip forward to stretch the hip flexors. Change legs.
- While standing, place a hand on your desk, stretch your fingers wide, as far apart as they can go. Straighten your arm and then do some arm rotations – internal and external. Great for the rotator cuff and your wrist. Change arms. Do both arms. Do it against a wall. Have fun.
- Put a heel on your chair, straighten that leg and stretch your hamstring. For the more flexible, use your desk [you might have to take your shoes off].
- While the leg is on your chair or desk, rotate your torso over the leg, trying to get your shoulders parallel with the leg – your ITB, piriformis and glutes will thank you.
- Do some calf raises, both legs, then one leg with the raised foot locked behind your grounded foot. Hold on to something if you can’t balance.
- Get to that in-office corporate yoga program that HR has been beating on about.
Of course if you’re doing a lot of these exercises during your day and still can’t get rid of that niggle in your back or legs, feel free to click here to make a booking with us.
So your spending more time sitting at a desk or in a car during the week – undoing all that fantastic training and potentially hurting your body more than you know. The key is to focus on good posture and breaking up hours in a chair with movement –whether it’s light activities, stretching, walking or anything that supports your overall health and fitness goals.
We’d love to hear back from you around your thoughts on sitting. How long do you sit during your day? What do you do to counteract the effects of sitting? Feel free to comment below, or email us here.
Top tips for those who are sitting at their desk all day.
If you are an office worker chances are you have come across or experienced first hand the pains of sitting for too long. While a typical desk job may seem to expose the body to little physical strain, prolonged sitting can wreak havoc on the body. The reason for this is that we are meant to move. Our anatomy and biology is set up for us to walk, stand, squat, twist, pull, push and a whole lot more. As the saying goes, “if you don’t use it, you lose it”. In this case sitting all day causes us to lose our mobility. Muscles become tight and weak, our posture changes, and we become stiff and sore. To remove the risks of prolonged sitting check out our list of top tips you can do to maintain your mobility and move well regardless of the demands of your job.
- Perform an audit of your workstation setup
Often making a few changes to your workstation can cause you to form good posture without having to even think about it. Here’s some common faults and top tips for your workstation setup.
Common faults with workstation setup:
- Chair too low → looking up at monitor
- Monitor too low → looking down at monitor
- Desk too low or seat too high → hunched over keyboard
Fix these with:
- Chair at proper height → eyes are level with top of monitor
- Hands comfortably at keyboard → shoulders are not rounded
- Monitor at correct height → neck in neutral position
Want to learn more about how to setup your workstation? Click here.
Optimise your sitting posture:
often when we think about posture, it can seem overwhelming, often you are left with one question . . . What is the right way to position my body?
To ensure that the curves of the spine are maintained: roll your pelvis forward until you achieve a very slight curve in the lower back, sit up a little straighter through your mid/upper back, and check that the position of your head isn’t too far forward of back. It should feel nice and balanced over the rest of your body.
The next step is to get used to what being in this position feels like so you can adjust your position without thinking about it too much. After this you must form a habit of getting into and maintaining this position. To form a habit it is helpful to have habit triggers. Every time one of the following occurs hold your good posture for 5-6 deep breaths or until you forget about it:
- You get an email
- You answer or hang up the phone
- You take a sip of water
- You set your desktop background to a picture of someone with good posture and do what they do when you see it.
- You set a reminder on your phone to notify you that its time to practice your posture habit.
Remember the most important point is that the body is made to MOVE. Even though we have outlined a perfect posture position above, remember that it’s always good to change positions often.
Regularly change your position throughout the day.
Been sitting for an hour? Why not stand for the next half hour? Or even kneel? The point is to do something different and to put your joints in a different position.
Don’t have this option? Get up go for a short walk to refill your water bottle, make a tea, go to the bathroom. You could even try marching on the spot, rolling your shoulders in circles, or doing a couple yoga moves. The takeaway from this is that there a million +1 ways to move your body and you must move it away from the position you have been spending a lot of time in.
Ideally change your position every 20-30 minutes but another useful technique is to listen to your body, i.e. is it starting to feel stiff? Are you starting to twist and move around in your seat to find a better position? If so, it’s time for a break. Get up and move or change your work position.
- Move often
This can take the form of formal exercise, gardening, going for walks, anything really. If your body can handle regular movement/exercise it will develop better resilience to the strain that lengthy desk work can have on the body. Plus you’ll reap the numerous other health benefits of exercise.
- Get a thorough assessment from your physiotherapist
At Barefoot Physiotherapy, we assess your nerves, joints, muscles and movements to measure the amount of strain you have built up in your body. You do not need to have any symptoms or conditions to have this assessment; think about it like going to the dentist for a check-up to prevent something happening! If there is any strain building up in your body, we can help teach you how to reduce the strain and prevent it coming back again. Want to learn more or book an appointment? Click here. We hope you find these top tips useful.