Your Chair is Killing You

I have been telling my patients for some time about the evils of prolonged sitting. It really is the new smoking. Not surprising is that in addition to the deleterious effects it has on creating musculoskeletal disorders the role it plays on increased morbidity is now being fully understood.The average American sits 13 hours a day.

Based on 18 studies reported during the past 16 years, covering 800,000 people. Those who sat for more than 4 hours a day while watching television had a 46% increase in deaths from any cause compared with people who sat in front of the tube for less than 2 hours. Also, sitting for more than half the day doubles the risk of diabetes and cardiovascular problems.

Obese people sit on average 2.25 hours longer than their lean counterparts every day. These sedentary obese people expend 350 fewer calories per day.An interesting component in the difference between lean people and obese people is whats known as NEAT, or «Nonexercise activity thermogenesis.« This is basically the energy you expend just going about your daily life. A fascinating study was done where 16 lean adults were overfed 1,000 extra calories over their daily energy needs for 8 weeks. That's an additional 56,000 extra calories. Guess what? None of them gained any extra fat! (Don't you just hate them). Sensors placed in their underwear.... No Joke, monitored their NEAT and showed that they unconsciously increase their activity level even while sitting. Even fidgeting (like bouncing your leg increases this level).

I would estimate that the majority of back pain patients I see that are not caused by an acute injury (and many that are), are a result of the cumulative effect of sitting too much. Even athletes who spend hours a day training are at risk. Let's face it we all spent years in school where we do what? Mainly sit in class all day. We drive cars, we sit in front of computers, T.V's, most of us have desk jobs. You can be in the gym 2 hours a day every day of your life but what are you doing the other 22 hours?

Remember your mother telling you «don't make nasty faces, your your face will freeze like that. We'll she was sort of right. It only takes 20 minutes for a muscle fiber that is contracted to tend to want to stay shortened. Sitting shortens many of the muscles in the front of the body while essentially neurologically inhibiting the posterior chain. (All the muscles on the back side of your body). Inhibiting means that the muscles are not «firing« in the correct sequential order as you move. This in turn creates faulty movement patterns and places tremendous strain on the joints.


You have to break the cycle. You have to get up every 20 minutes and move!

One of the things I do is called a Founders Pose. It's a hybrid move of yoga and pilates and Thai Chi.Google «youtube foundation training mercola« At the end of the video the developer of this system will instruct you on how to perform 4 of the basic movements for free. Do this pose every 20 to 30 min while your sitting and watch your life change.Many top level professional athletes swear by this system. They all say the same thing, «not only did my back stop hurting, I became a better athlete«. Why? Turn the posterior chain back on and your training becomes much more efficient. Additionally ART, Active Release Technique is very beneficial for addressing any scar tissue that has formed as a result of prolonged sitting. Again the act of sitting is a major player in the repetitive injury cycle.