Symbiotic Blog Archives - Page 2 of 3 - Symbiotic Chair

How To Use Your Laptop Without Damaging Your Spine

How To Use Your Laptop Without Damaging Your Spine

Laptops have revolutionized the way people work. Due to their size, portability, and battery power, laptops can be used anywhere in the world. Despite their convenience, laptops may actually be hurting us much more than we realize.

Have you ever stopped to take a look at how you are sitting when you are using your laptop? Be it on your lap, on your kitchen table, on an airplane, or at your work desk, you most likely will find yourself huddling over the attached keyboard and looking down at your screen.

These nifty devices cause such horrible posture, poor ergonomics, and ultimately a myriad of musculoskeletal problems, most notably in the form of back pain.¹

Laptop design as a cause of back pain

As you have experienced, laptops are very convenient due to the fact that the mouse and keyboard are attached to the computer screen.

What does this mean to us? Sure, we can pack a whole computer into a small bag and take it anywhere we go. But this also means we cannot customize the laptop user experience to work with each individual person’s unique posture, shapes, and sizes.

A laptop is made the same size for a 6-foot person as it is for a 5-foot person.

Not having the ability to separate the screen from the keyboard means you have to sit much closer to the laptop in order to reach the keyboard and mouse.

And, since the keyboard, mouse, and screen are connected, this means you also have to look down at the screen since you are unable to bring the screen to your appropriate eye level.

Compare that to a desktop computer where you can sit comfortably in a chair with the keyboard and mouse pulled in close to you with the screen at the appropriate eye level for you.

Having to look down at the screen and lean in towards the keyboard causes a significant forward head posture, increasing stress and strain to your neck and mid back, as well as constant slouching through your entire spine.

What exactly is forward head posture?

Forward head posture is a way to describe a positioning that many sedentary people adopt through use of laptops or other electronic devices.

Forward head position deteriorated by laptop

In the picture on the left you can see an example of great posture. On the right, this picture is demonstrating forward head posture.

With use of a laptop, one must lower their eyes and shove their head forward to see the screen.

How can this cause back pain?

Well, this posture places a lot of stress on the muscles of the jaw, neck, and upper back.

You can even see how the shoulders round forwards, tightening the chest muscles as well.

The longer you sustain this posture, the more pulling and rounding you will have throughout the entire spine, placing increased stress on the muscles, ligaments, and joints, potentially leading to pain and injury.²

If you think about how heavy your head is, around 5kg or 11 pounds, then it is easy to imagine how much stress is added to your spine the more your head moves forward, away from your center of mass. In fact, for every inch your head moves forwards, it gains another 10 pounds. This means the muscles of your spine have to work that much harder to keep your chin from dropping onto your chest.

That is a lot of added weight and stress to your spine!

What can you do to improve your laptop induced forward head posture?

 While it would be awesome to do away with laptops, it is just not that simple. Even though laptops have caused a lot of pain, they do offer so many benefits.

We just need to be smarter about how to use them. There are several tools available to improve the user experience, decrease forward head posture, and to eliminate back pain.

Here are the 4 issues with laptops and the tools you can use to improve back pain!

1. The height of your screen is going to be too low to maintain good posture.

To fix this you can set your laptop on a desk with a large textbook or sturdy box underneath. You may even purchase a laptop stand, that will look more professional, to elevate your screen.

If you are in a position that allows you to leave your laptop on a desk for prolonged periods of time, you may even buy an external screen. This will increase the height and the size of your screen.

Unfortunately, if you are using the laptop at home on the couch, you may not be able to place the laptop onto a stand. However, even a few pillows under the laptop can help to elevate the screen, decreasing how far you have to slouch down in order to improve your ability to see the screen.

2. The keyboard is not in the best position for you to have good posture. Since the keyboard is attached to the screen, you may not be able to place your elbows at a 90-degree bend with your wrists in a neutral, comfortable position.

To improve the use of your keyboard, you can purchase either a wired or wireless keyboard. This will allow you to have your laptop screen in a better position for your eyes while allowing you to set the keyboard up into an ergonomically friendly position for your shoulders, elbows, and wrists.

3. The mouse is also attached to the keyboard and screen! Same as with the keyboard situation, you will not be able to use the mouse while keeping your elbow at a 90-degree bend with your wrist in a neutral, comfortable position.

You can also purchase a wired or wireless mouse that will allow you to place it in    a more comfortable and ergonomic position for your body.

4. If you are unable to change much about your laptop, you can always improve the chair you are sitting on.

Your chair design can play a large role in your posture, including forward head posture, and back pain. If you are using a laptop, in a less than ideal posture with a horrible chair, then you are definitely set up for failure.

Instead of using a standard chair that has no support or is not the right size for your body, you should invest in a more ergonomically friendly chair. Active sitting chairs are a great option for when you are stuck using a laptop. Since you have to move around a lot more in order to stay comfortable while using a laptop compared to using a desktop, you will want a chair that will move with you, while still supporting you.

The Symbiotic Chair is an active sitting chair that actually has a balance mechanism built into it. This allows you to move your body around, using your own muscles for support, while improving your posture. Plus, the chair still provides adequate support through solid chair and back rest that provides comfortable counter support.

Now as you lean in closer to the screen, overextend your arms to reach the keyboard, or lean back for a break from the screen, you can have a chair that will support you in all positions.

So, if you are stuck using a laptop, try using any of the above external devices and try changing your chair. The benefits are countless, but especially through improving your posture and relieving back pain.

 Sources

 

How Can Your Posture Cause Lower Cross Syndrome?

How Can Your Posture Cause Lower Cross Syndrome?

It is commonly known that poor posture and sitting for prolonged periods of time can wreak havoc on our bodies. From headaches to low back pain and carpal tunnel to sore hips, if you have to sit for work, you will most likely experience some sort of aches and pains, especially if you have poor posture. Lower Cross Syndrome is one of the many conditions that can arise from how you sit and from how much you sit.

Lower Cross Syndrome can really encompass many of the lower body impairments that can arise from the sedentary workplace. Low back pain, hip pain, and even knee pain can present as a symptom of Lower Cross Syndrome.

How can your posture cause Lower Cross Syndrome and what can you do to avoid this? We will dive into these questions. But first, we need to have a review of our anatomy.

What muscles are involved in Lower Crossed Syndrome?

As the name implies, Lower Crossed Syndrome involves muscles of the lower body in a crisscross pattern.

Your Erector Spinae, aka lumbar spine extensor muscles, and your Hip Flexors become stiff and tight. On the other hand, your Gluteus Maximus and your Abdominal muscles become weak and over stretched.

These are all very important muscles that are required to work during nearly every single daily activity. From walking, running, and squatting to sitting, driving, and rolling over in bed, and everything in between. So, if these major muscle groups are not working optimally, you will start to develop even more aches and pains, not just at work while you are sitting, but in everything else you do during the day.

How does Lower Cross Syndrome develop?

Yes, the answer is your posture. Poor posture can lead to Lower Cross Syndrome.

While most of us sit in the workplace, our hips and knees are both bent to 90 degrees of flexion. This position places our Hip Flexors in a shortened position. And, as we sit in this position for hours and hours each day, our will adaptively shorten, causing tightness.

To make matters worse, our Hip Flexor muscles actually attach to the front of our lumbar spine. So, we do not only feel tightness and pain in the front of our hips, but also in our low back. As the muscles pull on the front of the spine, it can create more stress and tension in the joints of the lumbar spine and even cause an increase in our lumbar lordosis, aka the curve of our low back.

As our low back is pulled into this increased lordosis, our low back extensor muscles, the Erector Spinae, are also placed in a shortened position and become tight and overworked. The tightening of these muscles only works to continue to accentuate the tightness of the Hip Flexors, causing a vicious cycle of tightness throughout the hips and low back.

But it does not stop there.

As we continue to sit for hours and hours, our Abdominal muscles and our Glutes actually become weak. This can simply happen due to the fact that we sit for prolonged periods of time and are not using these muscles to facilitate movement or to hold our bodies up into better postural alignment.

But these muscle groups can also become weaker due to the tightness and pulling of our tight Hip Flexors and Erector Spinae muscles.

Because of the attachment of these 2 muscles onto our pelvis, they actually pull our pelvis into an anteriorly rotated position. This tilt places a constant stretch on our Gluteus Maximus and our Abdominal muscles. As these muscles continue to be stretched over time, they become weaker and weaker as they are in a position of disadvantage.

What this means is that the muscle fibers are so stretched out that they cannot contract appropriately.

So many negative changes can happen to our body just by sitting for prolonged periods of time in bad posture. If you develop this unfortunate syndrome, you will most likely notice it first by experiencing low back pain or hip pain.

How to avoid, or recovery from, Lower Crossed Syndrome

Your best bet at avoiding Lower Crossed Syndrome is to improve your posture and to decrease your static sitting time. To aid in avoiding, or recovering from this syndrome, you may also want to work on stretching your low back and hips while strengthening your Glutes and Abdominals.

Unfortunately, sedentary workplaces are becoming the norm. While we may not be able to avoid sitting completely, we can sure do a heck of a lot better on improving our sitting posture.

One of the easiest and more effective ways to improve your sitting posture is through use of an active sitting chair.

Active sitting chairs are unique and offer a much better experience to office employees and desk users when compared to other types of chairs.

Active sitting refers to engaging muscles, especially of your core, while in a sitting position. Having the ability to use your core muscles and your lower leg muscles to help stay balanced and upright in a chair will decrease your risk of being stuck in a static, slumped position.

By being given the opportunity to use your muscles, not only will you avoid the inevitable weakness that occurs with disuse, but you will also be able to avoid the tightening of your hips and low back.

With the constant moving associated with active sitting, your hips will not be stuck in the 90 degrees of hip bend, you won’t be pulling your low back into more of a lordotic curve, and you won’t be tilting your pelvis constantly.

One of the best chairs on the market is the Symbiotic Chair. Not only is it very ergonomically friendly, but it is also an environmentally friendly chair.

Use of the Symbiotic Chair can help you avoid, or recover, from Lower Cross Syndrome. This means improved posture and no more back or hip pain. Therefore, this means a better work experience. And in turn, an overall better quality of life.

Try your Symbiotic Chair today!

Author:

Adria Biasi

US based Doctor of Physical Therapy and Board Certified Orthopedic Specialist

Sources

 

5 Tips on How to Incorporate Microbreaks Into Your Sedentary Work Day

5 Tips on How to Incorporate Microbreaks Into Your Sedentary Work Day

Have you heard of the term “microbreak” before? Perhaps not. This is a relatively new phrase but it is becoming increasingly popular in the workplace, especially for the office or sedentary worker. No matter if you are working from home or in an office space, anyone with a desk job can benefit from microbreaks.

What are microbreaks?

Microbreaks are exactly what they sound like: micro-breaks. These are quick, short breaks taken throughout the workday. Whether you simply stand for 30 seconds or take a 5 minute walk around the office, you are essentially taking a microbreak.

There is no real prescription for taking a quick intermission, as long as you are taking frequent short breaks throughout the day, you will benefit from the positive outcomes associated with microbreaks.

The key is to remember these are short and frequent versus one long break, or a handle full of medium sized breaks. Even if you have the option to take a long lunch with a few 15 minute breaks throughout the day, you should still take regularly scheduled microbreaks.

Why take one?

These brief pauses from work have so many benefits. Not just for your physical, but also your mental health.¹ Think of them as a moment to “reboot”, just like you would do for an overworked computer.

You are provided with the opportunity to get away from your desk, getting out of your prolonged seated position.

You can refresh your mind as you are taking your focus away from work.

All of your muscles and joints can move and stretch out of your sustained desk posture.

Even your eyes have the chance to take a break from straining as they stare at the computer screen.

Research after research is proving that microbreaks really are the next best thing. Anyone from surgeons to typists are benefiting from these. From improved mood and productivity to decreased aches and pains, microbreaks are sure to help, not hurt your work experience.² ³ ⁴

How to take a microbreak?

One of the best ways to go about taking a microbreak is to take a 1-2 minute break every 20-30 minutes. But they can range from 1 to 5 minutes, taken at least once an hour.

The key is to engage in a non-work-related task. Research has found that it is best to stop work, not switch to another work-related activity.⁵

To best implement a microbreak, follow these 5 tips!

  1. Set yourself up for success.

    Make it easy and necessary for you to frequently get up and away from your desk. Try some of these ideas:

    1. Move your printer, copy machine, or fax into a different room, or at least not in reaching distance from your desk.
    2. Stand up while you are talking on the phone.
    3. Enjoy your lunch away from your computer screen.
    4. Use a small cup or bottle of water so that you need to get up several times a day for a refill.
    5. Set a timer on your phone or computer to go off every 20-30 minutes for a reminder to take a microbreak.
  2. Get some fresh air!

    Research shows that 40 seconds of nature is more effective in improving and restoring your attention than a city or concrete scene.⁶

    1. Go look out a window.
    2. Even better, go for a walk around the building.
  3. Use an active sitting chair. Active sitting chairs, like the Symbiotic Chair, allow for micro-movements all day long! While actually getting up and away from your desk is very beneficial, if this is not feasible for your workplace, the Symbiotic chair will help you obtain all of the benefits that microbreaks provide.
    1. Use of a balancing mechanism on these chairs allows you to constantly move around in your chair, using your core muscles for movement and balance, while your “sit-bones” stay supported on a comfortable chair.
    2. Plus, without the use of a sculpted backrest, you can move around with the support you need, while also being provided a counter-force as you lean against it.
  4. Incorporate stretches or light exercise into your microbreaks. Exercise performed frequently, in short bouts, throughout the day has been proven to be effective in:

    1. Improving one’s mood and well-being.
    2. Improving energy and decreasing hunger.
    3. Without negatively impacting productivity.

Try some light stretches, squats, lunges, or brisk walking on your next microbreak!

Don’t engage in work tasks during your microbreak.⁵ Going from typing up a report to responding to emails is not considered a break! If you don’t feel like getting away from your desk, at least try one of these activities:

    1. Watch a funny video.
    2. Scroll through your social media.
    3. Read a news article.
    4. Call a family or friend.
    5. Engage in a conversation with a coworker.

Microbreaks may seem silly and perhaps even a waste of time. But the research cannot be ignored. These short, quick, non-work-related breaks allow you to briefly disengage from your task at hand. Add these up throughout the work day and you will find yourself more productive, with more energy, less pain, and overall happier with your work-life balance.

Even if you simply start incorporating microbreaks through use of an active sitting chair, you are on the right track.

These small intermissions at work have the ability to improve the quality of our entire life. There is no denying the fact that our work spills over into our personal life. So why not do all that you can to improve your work experience, and therefore, your entire life?

Get started today! Try active sitting and set that timer to help keep you accountable!

Author: Adria Biasi

Author is US based Doctor of Physical Therapy and Board Certified Orthopedic Specialist

Sources

 

Can a Posture Correcting Chair Improve Mental Performance?

Can a Posture Correcting Chair Improve Mental Performance?

Chances are, you are probably sitting down while you read this. Perhaps you are on break at work, trying to get through your mid-day crash. Another cup of coffee or a granola bar are just not cutting it these days. Too bad your office chair can’t fold out into a bed so you can take an afternoon nap.

But what if your chair could actually boost your performance, just in a different way? Could you believe that a posture correcting chair can actually improve your mental performance?

What is a posture correcting chair?

Posture correcting chairs are pretty self-explanatory. They are specialized chairs that help to improve one’s posture, especially while sitting at work for hours upon hours each day.

But of course, there are several different types of chairs to choose from:

One of the best posture correcting chairs to improve mental performance is an active sitting, also called dynamic sitting, chair. A great example of this is the Symbiotic Chair.

An active sitting chair allows you to engage your muscles while allowing you to move freely with balance and adequate support. In other types of posture correcting chairs, you do not have the balancing mechanism that allows you to use your own core and postural muscles to move while still maintaining support from the chair.

This continuous movement and muscle contraction and relaxation promotes a healthy environment, not just for your low back health but also for your mental performance. Plus, it increases your overall physical activity throughout the day.

What is mental performance?

Mental performance encompasses so many different things, especially as it relates to psychology and the workplace.

Major components of mental performance includes:

  • Ability to focus
  • Memory
  • Problem solving
  • Functioning of the executive mind
  • Stress resistance
  • Productivity

How many times have you felt like your work performance has decreased due to being uncomfortable at your desk, because of back pain, or just from being stiff and sore from sitting for so long?

This is because your mental performance at work is directly tied to your physical body, your ergonomics, and the chair you are using.¹

Use of posture correcting chair to improve mental performance

Your posture and mental performance create a cycle. This cycle can either be vicious, or healthy and enjoyable. Finding the right chair can help break the bad cycle.

For example, if you are sitting at work in a comfortable, ergonomically friendly chair, you are more likely to have good posture. This good posture promotes improved productivity, decreases the chance of pain or injury developing, and simply makes your work day more enjoyable.² ³ Proper posture, from a well-designed chair, promotes good mental performance at work.

On the other hand, say you have a bad chair, one that is not posture correcting. This improper chair makes you sit slouched and slumped over.² As you adopt this posture, pain can arise and it shortens the muscles in the front of your body, and lengthens and weakens the ones in the back. This decreased mobility and increase in weakness and in pain that comes from poor posture is going to inevitably decrease your mental performance at work. You may become even more distracted by your pain. Then you may become even more tired and slouch even more! And the negative, vicious cycle continues to spiral.

But, if you have a posture correcting chair, you are less likely to go down the path of pain, injury, and poor mental performance.⁴

There is a growing amount of evidence proving how valuable your posture and your chair are when it comes to mental performance at work.

One of the most important studies done so far has looked at the school aged population. This particular study demonstrates the amount of physical activity that comes from using an active sitting chair actually improved the ability of the students to stay on task and improved their academic achievement levels.⁵ If you recall from earlier, active sitting chairs are one of the best types of posture correcting chairs.

They found that this increase in physical activity from the active sitting chair, provided more stimulation and an increase in the sensory experience, allowing the students to stay more engaged in the tasks at hand.⁵

Another recent study looked at an older population. Instead of students, this population consisted of working aged adults. This study assessed different sitting and standing postures and how it affects cognitive performance. This study found that the standard sitting posture was the best posture for helping to increase cognitive performance in the workplace.⁴

Let’s face it. Not all of us can simply stop sitting at work. Some of us cannot use a standing, treadmill, or cycle desk. But maybe some of these standing options are not even the best for productivity and mental performance at work.

So, if you have to sit for work, you may as well sit with a posture correcting chair, especially if it promotes active sitting, as you will feel better both physically and mentally at work.

Author: Adria Biasi

Author is US based Doctor of Physical Therapy and Board Certified Orthopedic Specialist

Sources

  1. https://www.indianweb2.com/2018/02/23/simple-office-chair-can-affect-productivity/#:~:text=Many%20studies%20have%20found%20that,your%20total%20output%20aka%20productivity.
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3552974/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5889545/
  4. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/322560848_Investigating_the_Effects_of_Different_Working_Postures_on_Cognitive_Performance
  5. https://www.longdom.org/open-access/do-you-want-your-students-to-pay-moreattention-in-class-try-dynamicseating-2165-7556-1000217.pdf
How Active Sitting Can Bring Back Your Psoas Balance

How Active Sitting Can Bring Back Your Psoas Balance

Sitting all day long can wreak havoc on your body. Unfortunately, most people spend an average of 9.5 hours sitting per day. From chronic pain to metabolic diseases, there is really no good thing that can come from sitting. This includes loss of psoas balance, which can cause a myriad of problems, including chronic low back pain. Fortunately, active sitting can help combat the negative effects that prolonged sitting has on your psoas muscle.

The term “psoas balance” may be new to you. But once you understand the importance of your psoas muscle and its relationship with sitting, your life will be forever changed, in a positive way. In order to achieve psoas balance, you must introduce active sitting into your work day, and really throughout your entire day.

Why is psoas balance important?

The psoas muscle, pronounced “so-as”, is one of the most important and unique muscles of our low back and hips. It is actually the only muscle that has a major connection between our trunk and our legs.¹

This large muscle has direct attachments onto the front of our lumbar spine and directly onto our femur.² As you bend at your hips, whether to pick your leg up or to bend over to tie your shoe, you are using your psoas muscle. Besides helping to bend at our hips, the psoas also helps to stabilize our core, as well as providing assistance to many other bodily functions¹:

  • Postural alignment
  • Major role in walking
  • Supports internal organs such as the kidneys and adrenal glands
  • Assists in proper breathing mechanics, aiding the diaphragm for full deep breaths

Psoas balance refers to having both enough flexibility and enough strength to be able to properly assist in all daily activities. Whether you are sitting, walking, dancing, climbing, or even sleeping, you need your psoas muscles to be long enough and strong enough in order to avoid low back pain.

If your psoas is out of balance, the tight muscles can compress your low back, putting pressure on your vertebrae and spinal discs. Over time this can cause pain, injury, and may even cause someone to have surgery that very well could have been avoided.³

Your psoas can also be out of balance if your muscles are weak. If these muscles are weak, your body will begin to try to use other muscles for assistance with core stabilizing, postural alignment, and for walking or other hip flexion or trunk bending activities. As other muscles take on the work, low back pain and even other areas of pain can arise.

One of the most common reasons why imbalance in the psoas muscle occurs is from sitting. Quite frankly, humans sit way too much. While overall sitting time can decrease, not all sitting can be avoided. So, if you have to sit, you will have better success with maintaining psoas balance, and eliminating low back pain by engaging in active sitting.

Psoas balance and active sitting

When we sit in a standard chair, we put our psoas muscle in a shortened position.

Most of us sit with our hips at a 90 degree bend. This position brings the 2 attachment sites of the psoas closer together, the front of your spine and your femur. Combine this bent position with sitting for hours and hours, you will without a doubt have adaptive shortening over time. This adaptive shortening will cause decreased flexibility, inability to properly fire your psoas, and will result in low back pain.

Sure, you may be able to try to avoid this shortening and imbalance of your psoas by trying to avoid sitting for extended periods of time or by sitting with your hips higher than your knees.⁴

But even if you take multiple breaks through your work day and avoid sitting when you are at home, you will still most likely sit close to 30-40 hours per week if you have an office job.

And even raising the height of the chair, bringing your hips higher above your knees, is still shortening and tightening everything in the front of your body, including your psoas!

Your best bet in avoiding problems with your psoas balance is to implement active sitting. Active sitting refers to a type of sitting that allows you to use some or all of your postural and core stabilizing muscles.

A common way that people may begin to practice active sitting is through use of an exercise ball. However, there are other ways to more professionally and safely practice active sitting in the workplace. One way is through the use of the Symbiotic Chair.

Active sitting, whether through the use of the Symbiotic Chair, or other means, helps to prevent psoas imbalances. As mentioned previously, the psoas is a postural muscle, stimulates blood flow and lymphatic drainage to surrounding organs and tissues, and even has a role in improving the function of the diaphragm.¹ ⁴

So, if active sitting allows the users to use their own muscles, for support, balance, postural alignment, and overall control of both where the body and the chair are moving, that means the psoas is free to move, engage, and relax throughout the day.

A happy, moving, fluid psoas equals a happy, pain free low back, improved posture, better breathing, and overall better experience throughout the work day.

Active versus static sitting

Why is active sitting so much better for psoas balance than static sitting? Well, static sitting refers to sitting all day in a rigid chair. Even if your chair is set up correctly for your shape and size, including the use of lumbar support, you are still stuck in one, inflexible position for most of the day.

Think of static sitting as sitting on a piece of concrete and active sitting as sitting in a kayak, floating on the lake. Both involve sitting, but both are two totally different experiences.

Concrete, or a standard office chair, is very stable yet non-conforming to your movements. Your spine and muscles stay rigid. As you move forwards, your whole body moves as a unit. But in the kayak, or in an active sitting chair, you are supported but with freedom to move around. Different body parts can move with fluidity and more mobility, allowing your muscles, especially your psoas to be used in a more natural way.

The mico-movements that are promoted all day while in an active sitting chair allows for improved circulation and breathing. So, by using an active sitting chair, you are not only improving your psoas balance and low back pain, but you are improving the health of your whole body.

The psoas is a remarkable muscle and in future posts we will dive into the connection between psoas balance and our emotions and stress and how active sitting can improve all areas of our life.

But for now, try to incorporate active sitting in your work day.

Author: Adria Biasi

Author is US based Doctor of Physical Therapy and Board Certified Orthopedic Specialist

Sources

 

Sitting Disease, Is It Possible to Overcome?

Sitting Disease, Is It Possible to Overcome?

Our society is being plagued with the preventable, sitting disease. According to the World Health Organization, approximately 3.2 million deaths each year are attributable to insufficient physical activity. The lack of physical activity is on the rise due to the fact that we are sitting more than we ever have.

By now, you have most likely heard the phrase, “sitting is the new smoking”. As the number of sedentary jobs have increased 83% since 1950, not only are we sitting more at work, but we are also sitting on our commutes, when we eat meals, and during our leisure or relaxing activities. A typical office worker can sit around a total of 15 hours a day!

While the phrase, “sitting is the new smoking” has grown in popularity in the past few years, it is not entirely accurate. If you look at our society as a whole, sitting is actually worse than smoking.¹ Dr. James Levine, the director of the Mayo Clinic at Arizona State University Obesity Solutions Initiative explains that “sitting is more dangerous than smoking, kills more people than HIV, and is more treacherous than parachuting.”²

It only takes two continuous hours of sitting to see an increase in the risk of suffering from an avoidable, lifestyle disease.¹ ³

“We are sitting ourselves to death” – Dr. James Levine²

Not only are we witnessing the harmful effects of sitting on our bodily functions, but also myriad of musculoskeletal pains and injuries.

Effects of this sitting disease on our bodies

We can look at how this disease affects us, both from a physiological and musculoskeletal standpoint.

Physiologically- our bodily functions

The most obvious symptom of the sitting disease is obesity. The more we sit, the less energy we expend, and the more fat we store.

But this disease goes beyond obesity. It is known to create actual changes in the cellular makeup of our muscles while also causing or increasing the risk of¹ ⁴:

● Diabetes
● Heart disease
○ High blood pressure
○ High cholesterol
● Cancer
● Premature death
● Depression

Fundamental changes in biology occur if you sit too long”¹

At the cellular level, the cells that make up our muscles are constantly responding to their environment. If we sit all day and barely contract our muscles, they will adapt to this. Even if you work out for an hour each day, that does not stop the negative effects that come from sitting for 8-10 hours at work. Your muscles are spending the most time in a non-contracted, non-working state.

Let’s continue down the cellular path. The changes that our cells go through while sitting too much actually inhibit different genes (located inside of our cells) that break down triglycerides and modulate glucose metabolism. As we sit, our own cells change and genes stop performing the tasks they are supposed to do!

When it comes to a decrease in breaking down of triglycerides and a slowing of glucose metabolism, our risk of high cholesterol, heart disease, and diabetes rises.⁵

As we sit, not only do our cells stop doing what they are supposed to be doing, but our body’s normal processes are stalled or stopped completely. Our cells and therefore our muscles stop moving and using fats and sugars and we inevitably store this as excess fat and we see our blood sugar levels and cholesterol numbers start to rise.

It does not take much time for these changes to happen. Even after just one day of sitting, someone with overall healthy cholesterol levels can experience a spike high enough to be well within the levels of someone that has heart disease. If one continues with this day after day, without changing their sitting habits, the risk of heart disease and having a heart attack increases.¹ ⁴

Metabolic, lifestyle diseases are not the only thing to be concerned about. Cancer may seem like a shocking symptom of the sitting disease. However, according to the American Cancer Association and the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), greater amount of sitting time is linked with higher rates of cancer. Specifically in the study published in JAMA, the participants that had spent the most hours sitting were 82% more likely die from cancer than those in the group that sat the least.⁶

Honestly, no matter how you look at it, whether this sitting disease is affecting your heart, raising your blood sugar and cholesterol, or causing an increase in the risk of cancer, the risk of premature death rises significantly with sitting. People who sit for more than 11 hours each day have a 40% increase in chance of premature death than people that sit for 4 hours or less.¹

Musculoskeletal- the aches and pains of this sitting disease

Besides the fact that this disease can wreak havoc on our physiological processes, it can also hinder our musculoskeletal system, especially the low back.

Low back pain is one of the most common injuries that results from prolonged sitting.

Because of the very minimal dynamic movement and activation of the low back muscles while sitting, the load and stress is transferred to other parts of the spine, like our spinal discs and ligaments.⁷ These structures are not meant to bear constant load for prolonged periods of time like our muscles, especially our postural muscles, are. Ultimately, sitting disease leads to disuse and weakening of our musculoskeletal system. ⁷ ⁸ And, this continues the pain cycle.

How to overcome the sitting disease

Is it possible to overcome this man-made sitting disease? Well, exercise may seem like the no brainer answer. If you have to sit 8 hours a day at work, not including the time you sit for other normal daily activities, but you work out for 30-60 minutes each day, then you must be okay!

Wrong!

Research upon research proves that exercising regularly does not combat the negative effects of the sitting disease.

The basic premise is that sitting too much is not the same as lack of exercise and, as such, has its own unique metabolic consequences. ⁴

The same cellular and genetic research mentioned above, also demonstrated that exercise is not enough to combat the effects of sitting and that a balance of muscle inactivity and high duration, low intensity physical activities is more beneficial when compared to sitting all day with 30-60 minutes of high intensity exercise.⁵

In more simple words, a combination of sitting and frequent, long bouts of low intensity exercise, movement, or physical activity is more beneficial in helping to overcome the negative effects of the sitting disease when compared to sitting all day and then exercising really hard for an hour or so.⁴ ⁵

To truly overcome this sitting disease, we need to sit less. Sitting less is easier said than done. We can’t help the fact that we have a commute to work, that it is socially acceptable to sit and eat at the dinner table, and that most of us are desk bound at work. But we can help the fact by incorporating active sitting in addition to regularly scheduled work breaks.

Active sitting allows you to continuously use your postural muscles to stay balanced and comfortable in your chair. Using a chair, like the Symbiotic Chair, that has a balancing mechanism allows you to use your core while the chair moves with and follows you. This a simple, yet effective way to add long duration, low-intensity physical activity to your work day.

Clearly, our bodies are adaptable and respond to our environment. Set yourself up for success and for your best chance at living a long and healthy life but incorporating active sitting and overall, more low intensity physical activity throughout your work day.

Don’t let this sitting disease bring you down.

Author: Adria Biasi

Author is US based Doctor of Physical Therapy and Board Certified Orthopedic Specialist

Sources

1) James A. Levine. Get Up! Why Your Chair Is Killing You and What You Can Do About It (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2014): 70-71.
2) https://www.tricitymed.org/2017/07/everyone-keeps-saying-sitting-new-smoking/#:~:text=Levine%2C%20who%20is%20director%20of,is%20more%20treacherous%20than%20parachuting.
3) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2862441/
4) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3419586/
5) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4364419/
6) https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamaoncology/article-abstract/2767093
7) https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23122693/
8) https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11219760/