Have you ever heard the phrase “sitting is the new smoking?” How can sitting possibly be as bad for you as smoking?
It can’t. I’m not going to alarm you and say that sitting at your desk or driving in your car for extended periods of time is the same as inhaling smoke and toxic chemicals, but it is one thing that you should not end up doing for hours every day. After returning from a vacation or traveling, I find that my lower back is almost always in some degree of pain. Even now, as I stand at my desk typing this email, I’m holding a block between my legs and engaging my core to undo hours of driving in a car with no lumbar support.
A few months ago, I started working at a counter, instead of at a desk. This helped with my lower back and hips, but it caused my neck to become very tight from looking down. About a month ago, I started using a stand-up desk, and this had some profound effects. I no longer feeling back pain, and my neck discomfort has receded as well. Beyond physical feeling, I now sleep better, because I feel tired at the end of the day, and not during the day. Sitting tells my body that it is time to relax and go to sleep, whereas standing helps me to maintain focus and do what I need to do during the day.
Why is sitting so bad for you? Here’a a short list:
- no core engagement – your abs are turning to mush. You aren’t using them to hold yourself up, and as a result your body is forgetting how to even use your abs, the result being that when you exercise you will end up using (and overexerting) your lower back.
- tight hip flexors – your hip flexors are in a shortened position, and this causes your hip flexors to get tight. (And tight hip flexors lead to back pain, not to mention embarrassingly shallow lunges.)
- Rounded spine – Hunching over a desk causes your spine to round, which tightens your chest and over-stretches your shoulders and spine. Not only does this lead to a massive imbalance in your torso, but it also teaches your body to hunch when you stand up, meaning that you have crappy posture and you look about as a confident as a kid on his first day of high school.
- Weak butt muscles – Sitting on your butt causes your butt muscles to relax, and when you do this too often those muscles actually forget what they are supposed to even do! That means that when you tell your body to do things like squat, lunge, or run, your butt muscles might not even do anything, which causes imbalances throughout your body (because other muscles are forced to pick up the slack).
Doing exercises that counter the aforementioned points above is a big help, but research tells us that even if you are doing 30 minutes of exercise per day, you will not counter the harmful effects that sitting is having on your body.
I highly suggest purchasing a stand-up desk. Here’s the one that I use. It’s one of the few well-built and well-reviewed stand-up desk that I could find on the internet for less than $200. I also highly recommend purchasing an anti-fatigue mat. My feet have been sore for a couple of weeks now because I didn’t heed the advice of one my brand ambassadors. (I also attended an African dance class that involved lots of jumping and foot pounding on a hard surface…)
My other suggestion (if you don’t want to purchase a stand-up desk or don’t have the space for it) is to get a portable stand tray. This adjusts to 24″ tall and is strong enough that you can write on in. I use it on counters, tables, the ground, and even outdoors. (Click here to get the exact one that I use, shown in the photo below.)
Lastly, here’s a video that shows some things that you can do while standing up to make your stand-up session a little more productive. Try them out! (Even if you don’t have a stand-up desk, you can take a break from work every 30 minutes or so to stand up and do some of these.)