We all do it. Every day. Hunched over a computer, grasping a steering wheel, slouched on the couch or settled onto a meditation cushiona��we all sit, sometimes for hours at a time.
We take sitting in chairs for granted. Ita��s the go-to position for pretty much everything we do on a regular basis. Like standing and lying down, of course ita��s something most of our bodies are designed to do. The problem lies in the extraordinary lengths of uninterrupted sitting time to which wea��ve grown accustomed.
Our necks and shoulders strain as they slump forward. Our hips tighten and spines are compromised as the psoas muscles shorten (more on this later). Our core muscles and glutes turn to mush. Our leg bones soften from lack of weight bearing. Our brains get foggy as blood flow slows.
All kinds of physical/mental problems arise when we sit for long periods. A 2009 article in the The British Journal of Sports Medicine explains some of the physical maladies that can arise when we spend too much time at desks, in transit and in our leisure time. The report focuses on the increase in obesity rates that correlate with too much sitting, as well as the decreasing efficiency of our vital systems. Too much sitting can lead to cardiovascular disease; diabetes from an over-productive pancreas; and colon, breast and endometrial cancers. This recent chart in The Washington Post explains some of the issues and suggests remedies you can practice while at work.
How to Get Out of Your Seat
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So what to do? The American Medical Association recognizes the risks of prolonged sitting and advocates standing and adjustable workstations. These are great if you can afford them, but you can add some simple practices into your workday if youa��re not ready to make the investment in a new system.
I advise my yoga students with sedentary jobs to stand up and stretch every 20 minutes or so. Ita��s simple: Stand up, stretch your arms up toward the sky, clasp your hands, or hold onto a strap or belt (as in the photo) and tilt backwards, side to side, and rotate your torso. It takes all of 30 seconds to a minute, and yet it helps defog your brain and get your blood moving. If you find it hard to remember to stand up, set a timer to remind you.
Herea��s another strategy Ia��ve used in the half-time job where I work: Each morning while Ia��m at work I drink a whole 28-ounce bottle of water. This not only hydrates me, but forces me to get up out of my chair much more often than I would otherwise.
On breaks you can take a walk around the block or a walk through your building. Around the block is best, as outside air can refresh your brain.
In future blogs, Ia��ll introduce some a�?chair yogaa�? that can refresh your mind and body while youa��re sitting in your chair.