It’s no secret that people have been sitting since the primordial beginnings of human existence.
However, past cultures had adopted different positions with an array of different social and spiritual rationalities. What’s further is that, these many deviations of sitting postures generally complimented the human anatomy and biomechanics far better than that of our current cost cutting, orthopaedic, metabolic, neurological and physiological destructive and ergonomically penurious positions that vastly dominate the western culture today.
So how is sitting actually effecting your health & physiology?
Let’s explore the negative effects of sitting…
Today the average person sits for extended periods of time. According to Dr. Stacy Clemes, Senior Lecturer in human biology, Loughborough University, the average person sits for 65-70% of their waking day. This percentage equates to 9-10 hours.
When our muscles contract, they have a profoundly powerful pumping effect on the bodies circulation. Prolonged periods of sitting, prevents the lower body musculature – such as the soleus muscle (calf muscles) from pumping effectively. The absence of the soleus pump in the sitting posture allows blood to pool in the veins, which increases the pressure in our vein walls. This can be a known cause for varicose vein and can significantly increase one’s risk of venous thrombosis. Because of this, there’s a potential risk of pulmonary embolism – not to get too dramatic on you. Now you know why its wise for people to move about, intermittently, aboard long international flights.
Regular shifting of ones sitting position and intermittent exercise bouts between sitting, is wise for both circulatory health and overall feelings of vitality. Without optimal circulation, one will experience a reduction in energy, wellbeing and mental performance.
Metabolic response to sitting & weight gain
When a person sits, calorie burning drops to around 1 calorie per minute. If a person sits for more than 24 hours straight, they may loose up to 40% of insulin sensitivity, putting them at risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
By sitting regularly, you increase your risk of weight gain. This is partially to do with a reduction of energy expenditure (calorie burning) coupled with a reduction of the enzymes produced by the body, that are responsible for breaking down fat store.
One of the negatives related to sitting is the associated lack of physical exercise, especially when we consider a person may sit upwards of 9-10 hours per day. Regular aerobic exercise increases the amount of high density lipoproteins (HDL – good cholesterol) in the blood. In turn, this helps to keep the blood from becoming less viscose (sticky), which reduces the chances of atheroma – deposits on the arterial wall. By sitting less and moving more, you reduce your chances of heart disease.
The first assessments I do on any new client, is a breathing assessment. Most people have what I call an “inverted” breathing pattern. This is generally based on poor posture and an overly active, systemic “fight or flight” response.
Overtime, poor posture effects a persons musculoskeletal, too which effects a persons breathing technique.
The major muscle responsibly for obligate nasal breathing is the diaphragm. The diaphragm is a large dome shaped muscle, separating the lungs and the abdominal cavity. A contraction of this muscle draws fresh oxygen into the lungs and a relaxation of this muscle releases the ribs and lungs, expelling the air out.
The brain requires a large amount of oxygen to function properly, roughly 25% of the hearts total output. The common slouch posture when sitting makes it very difficult for the body to meet this demand purely due to poor posture effecting the function of our diaphragm – and thus our breathing technique.
Considering that we breath 26,000 breaths per day, this statistic alone, should be enough to instigate a correct seated posture, in order to facilitate the most important system of survival – respiration.
A woman’s bone density drops by roughly 1% per year, after 35 years of age. Bone is a living tissue and subject to environmental demands placed upon it – SAID (specific adaption to imposed demand).
When a person sits, especially in the absences of weight baring exercise, there is little demand for the prevention of the reduction in bone density. Sitting, in the absences of weight baring exercises must be considered a major osteoporosis risk factor.
The siting posture, especially when slouched, crowds the abdominal cavity. This impacts the circulation of blood to the necessary organs, hindering our digestive process. This can be one reason for post-meal sluggishness. Sitting can be associated with gastric reflux, diverticulitis (inflamed pocked through the muscular wall of the colon), constipation and malabsorption syndromes.
Many people think inculpably, that sitting and effective studying are synonymous, just as cheese with crackers. However, the reality is that these two elements should really be viewed as polarities.
The brain requires an optimal breathing strategy (as discussed above) coupled with movement for optimal blood and oxygen supply, but also by sitting we reduce the production of mood enhancing hormones, causing brain function to reduce.
Posture & Spinal health
My personal observations of postural aberrations consistent with people whom sit for prolonged periods with poor mechanics;
- Forward head carriage – poke chin.
- Increased first rib angulation
- Excessive thoracic kyphosis – rounded shoulders
- Reduced lordosis of the lumbar spine – Flat lower back
- Posterior pelvic rotation – “Pink panther posture”.
All of the above postural aberrations are measurable using the JP’s Fitness CHEK length / tension assessment process. Seldom have I personally assessed a client whom demonstrates ideal posture, in relation to joint angles and inclinometer measurements.
When a person sits down the normal shape of our spine changes. This change effects the way our spinal joints work. When seated, instead of the orthopaedic normal three curves observable with good posture, we often find ourselves reducing our spinal curvatures to just one long curve.
In a standard seated posture, the lumbar curvature completely reverses, the thoracic curve increases and the cervical curve generally reverses. This change in position, when prolonged can create soft tissue maladaptation’s which topically present as musculoskeletal imbalances, loss in power / performance and ugly muscle/ aesthetic development.
Because of these musculoskeletal maladaptation’s, the risk factor for sustaining spinal injuries vastly increases – especially when training with heavy resistances.
Newly emerging research now shows that if a person sits for more than 6 hours per day, that person may loose up to 7 years of quality life. Your chances of coronary heart disease increases by 64% and your risk of breast or prostate cancer increases by 30%.
Living fruitfully, vitally and positively relies on a person’s foundational health – secondary to wise lifestyle choices and habits. Health resides at the aetiology (root) of a good life. Look after your health now, or risk loosing it earlier than you should.
Optimise your health by implementing healthy sitting ergonomics.
Love & Peace,
Holistic lifestyle coach
Level 3 expert trainer
C.H.E.K Exercise coach
Stay Tuned.. Jordan Peters is back next week so keep an eye out for part two on how you can improve your sitting posture.
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Tom (AKA The Waterboy) is passionate about natural health and helping others improve their wellbeing by following a natural alkaline diet. He is the director of alkalife working with his brother John on a mission to educate you on how to take control of your health without medication. He is also passionate about reducing his carbon footprint which flows onto a lot of business decisions too. His pet peeves are inconsiderate people, people that cut into your lane without indicating and ironing.