By VANESSA HAMPTON
I have chronic back issues. Advanced arthritis, spinal stenosis, bulging disc (at one time)…pretty much the perfect storm for back pain. When I first found out about my back problems I was working in the finance industry and sitting at a desk all day. My posture was terrible, of course.
Working on a computer, I spent the majority of the day with my shoulders hunched forward and legs crossed at the knees. Pretty much the worst possible position for most every joint in the body, and most definitely exasperating how much pain I was in on a daily basis. These days my back issues are still there, however, I no longer suffer with them. This, in large part, is due to the fact that I hardly ever sit during my day working as a trainer, and I keep my body moving.
So, what exactly happens when we sit too much?
Well, for starters, we get mushy abs because our core gets lazy. Our hip joints get tight from lack of movement. Our glutes get soft because they don’t have to do any work when sitting. Not to mention our spine becomes inflexible and we risk disk damage because of compression.
This is just the beginning though. Because our blood doesn’t get to circulate well to any part of our body in a prolonged seated position, we are at a higher risk of heart disease, blood clots in the legs, and even a foggy brain when we make this a habit.
I know that many of us don’t have a choice about sitting in our daily lives. We either have jobs or hobbies that require we sit. However, we do have a choice about how we navigate the necessity to sit. There are ways for us to battle back and keep our bodies healthy and free of sitting induced aches and pains. See how many of these things you can implement or are already doing to help yourself out.
- Limit the amount of time you sit. Make sure you are up and moving every hour (every 30 minutes is even better!). I know how difficult this can prove to be if you get caught up in a project (I am guilty of it too). So, this may mean setting a timer to go off every hour to remind you. Whatever it takes!
- If you have stairs at your disposal, use them. Get those knee and hip joints working. Climb the stairs every hour that you are up or at least every other time. If stairs are not an option, don’t be afraid to stand beside your desk and do some squats or simply sit and stand from your chair several times. This is an easy way to get the blood flowing and loosen the joints.
- Sit up Straight! I used to place sticky notes on my computer screen to remind me to sit up. It’s uncomfortable at first but, after creating some muscle memory and recruiting your core to give you a little help, it gets easier.
- Sit on a wedge cushion. You can do this at the office or even in your car when you are on a trip. The goal is to raise the hip joint above the knee joint. It doesn’t have to be much. The slightest change in position here can be a tremendous help in relieving pressure from those hips and low back.
- Purchase or talk to your employer about a standing desk. These days many employers want to keep their employees healthy and happy (means higher productivity and keeping them at their computer more) so they are very open to the idea of a versatile desk. Some of them may require a doctor’s note to pay for it but others may be willing to foot the bill. You never know until you ask!
Throughout my day I see a lot of people that suffer with joint and muscular issues as well as poor posture. None of those things get better over time without putting intention into what you are doing on a regular basis. Thinking about the position you are keeping your body in throughout your day, and moving your body as it was intended is the key to living life comfortably for the long term!
Change your habits. Change your world.
Vanessa Hampton, owner of Body Balance with V and Body Balance Massage & Wellness, is a personal trainer, yoga instructor, Fitness Coach, and CrossFit coach (CrossFit Cool Springs, Brentwood). Follow her on Facebook or Instagram @bodybalancewithv @bbmassageandwellness or email her at email@example.com.