Today we live in a world where the average American spends more than half of their waking hours sitting at a computer, watching TV, playing on their phones, or commuting to and fro in a vehicle. We all have to work to pay the bills and chauffeur our families to sporting events and dance lessons etc., and do you ever wonder what all that sitting is doing to your body as well as your brain?
Our bodies were designed to move and do work; when we are inactive, tissues can shorten and get tight while others lengthen causing laxity. Sitting for prolonged periods of time can cause many problems such as chronic neck and back pain; poor posture and can lead to life threatening diseases such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease.
When we are inactive, blood circulation is decreased which means our tissues and our brain are not getting the much needed oxygen we need to function at our best; this can lead to an inability to think clearly and focus. Sitting for long periods of time in front of a computer can lead to slumping and this puts a lot of strain on the neck. Slumping forward also affects the musculature of the shoulders and back. The forward shoulder posture causes the muscles between our shoulder blades to lengthen and it causes shortening of the pectoralis major and minor (muscles of the chest). These two combined can cause muscle pain, headaches and can lead to rounded shoulders and kyphosis (hump back). Continual shortening of chest muscles can also lead to numbness, tingling and reduced circulation to the upper extremities.
Sitting for prolonged periods of time can also cause low back pain. When we are active, we keep our spine flexible and movement encourages circulation, supplying the vertebral disks (spongy material between vertebrae) with vital nutrients. When we are inactive for long periods of time, it can cause compression of the disks and shortening of the ligaments and tendons around our spine.
Another negative side effect of sitting or being inactive is muscle degeneration. We all know sitting does not require much muscle activation. When we sit, our abdominal muscles are not engaged, our hip flexors tighten and our low back is lax. When we don’t use our muscles we lose them. This can lead to sway back, a protruding belly and poor balance and coordination.
Sitting for prolonged periods of time can also hinder circulation to the legs. This causes blood and fluid to pool around the ankles, which will result in swollen ankles, varicose veins and even more serious, blood clots. Living a life if inactivity can even lead to osteoporosis.
If you do have to sit in a car or behind a desk, sit up STRAIGHT and avoid slouching. Make sure you pull your shoulders back and engage your core. Invest in an ergonomic chair or purchase an exercise ball to sit on. The ball will force you to engage your core so you don’t fall over! Also, make the time to exercise regularly. This doesn’t mean you have to join a gym or lift ridiculous amounts of weight, simply go for a walk on your lunch break, or if your time is limited at work, take a few minutes to walk around the office and stretch. You can also take a walk with your family when you get home from work or after dinner. Not only will you be encouraging health and wellness, as well as teaching your children healthy habits, you will get uninterrupted, quality time with your family.
We all lead very busy lives and sometimes forget about our health. It is very important to take the time to take care of yourself, so that you can be there to care for your family. Regular massage therapy is a great way to take the time for you. Massage therapy can relax and lengthened tight muscles, bring tone back to the lax/stretched musculature, increase circulation thus, aiding in vital nutrient delivery to our tissues and it can also help reduce stress and put a smile on your face.