You may have heard, sitting is the new smoking (among other things). On average we spend 50 to 70% of our day sitting and as we get tired we start to hunch. Both are extremely unhealthy and contribute to poor posture, poor body mechanics, and back pain. 

Our lives have evolved from moving most of the day to sitting most of the day. Just go back 150 years and most of us were farming the land. We now drive to work, sit all day, drive home, and sit in front of the TV or computer.

Excessive sitting increases your risk of diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and causes shorter life spans for both men and women. When we sit all day we get decreased circulation and muscular imbalances. Everything slows, including energy and brain function.

When the bigger muscles in the lower half of your body aren’t being used, a signal goes to your brain and your metabolism changes. These changes increase blood sugar levels and your decreased metabolism only burns a calorie a minute, a third of what you burn when walking.

The American Medical Association (AMA) has also taken a stance against sitting all day and their policy now recommends organizations offer sitting alternatives, including standing desks.

Give Your Body a Break

If you work in an office setting, make it a point to get up and move at least once an hour. Set an hourly timer on your phone until it becomes a habit. Here are some moves for you to work on for a few minutes each hour during your work day:

  • Get down into a low squat and rock from side to side
  • Do some downward dog 
  • Walk up or better yet hop up a few flights of stairs
  • Practice your plank. Start with a minute and work up to two
  • Go for a few laps around your building, outside is even better
  • Strengthen Your Core - pilates and yoga both do the job

Considering a standing desk?

After years of dealing with back pain from sitting all day I switched to a standing desk. At first it was way harder than sitting all day. I obviously wasn’t thinking clearly to expect to be able to stand all day after sitting 10+ hours a day for the past 20 years. The first week or so I felt like I traded my back and shoulder pain for pain in my legs and feet.

It took 2-3 weeks and eventually got easier. In some ways my full transition was good because the increased pain forced me to do a lot of the above mentioned movements but it’s definitely not ideal and I don’t recommend doing what I did.

If you’re going to switch to a standing desk, do a phased transition. Gradually increase the amount you stand each day and decrease the amount you sit. Even once you’ve built up your standing muscles, don’t stand for eight to ten hours straight because this is not healthy either. The key is variance throughout the day for your body to be healthy.

Just as sitting properly is important so is standing, especially if you want to remain pain free. Here are some of the tips from my chiropractor.

Don’t lock your knees. Have them ever so slightly bent. You also want to slightly rotate your legs outward while keeping your feet firmly planted and lightly flexing your gluts (your butt muscles). Lightly engage your abs as well and this helps maintain a neutral position for your pelvis. You need to work on this at first but it gets easier.

Keep your shoulders down and back and your head over your body. Your keyboard should be at a level so that your arms form a 90 degree angle at your elbows. Your monitor should be at the level of your head. 

If you do get trapped in a zone and all of a sudden the next thing you know several hours have passed from too much sitting or standing and now your butt or legs are numb you can do some leg swings to loosen your hips and get some blood flowing again.

To help with sore feet get a lacrosse ball and roll your foot around on it. This really helps loosen the muscles in your feet and gets the blood flowing. It feels great too.

What are your favorite hacks to keep yourself limber and avoid sitting for too long?