Standing Up to Stiffness

Healthy sitting is an active process, that must be done with intentionality and skill. 
The human body was not built to be in a seated position for most of the day, it doesn’t function as well.  Sitting causes stiffness, not only in the spine, but also in the neck, hips, legs, and even in the knees, ankles, and shoulders.  More sitting leads to more stiffness.  The best way to deal with stiffness from sitting is to stand up, either in a stationary standing position or in motion.  More movement will lead to less stiffness and better health, but we all must sit some, so I’m not saying not to do it.   It’s not realistic to never sit.  
Most of us have jobs that require sitting.  Most people don’t do manual labor anymore, at least not all day.  Even in my business, which involves working with people on my feet for 6-8 hours per day, I still have to sit often, usually 2-3 hours per day.  We all have to sit, but we need to sit successfully by sitting intentionally.
Sitting successfully requires a plan.
The spine is constantly looking for stability.  If we don’t provide stability to the spine by sitting the correct way, it will find it by hunching forward (flexion) or leaning back (hyperextension).  If we don’t activate our stabilizing spinal / core muscles as much as possible with good posture while sitting, then our ligaments, tendons, and fascia (connective tissue) will pitch in to help provide stability.  The problem with turning off our spinal / core muscles due to poor sitting posture and instead loading the connective tissue is that those tissues weren’t made to support the spine by themselves.  Over time, sitting incorrectly can cause joint deformity and joint dysfunction. 
So when you sit, sit with purpose and good posture, and stand as much as possible. 
Here are some basic guidelines for sitting successfully and standing up to stiffness.

  • For every 30 minutes of sitting, stand for 2 minutes.
  • Sit with your spine and head in good alignment, with your elbows at 90 degrees. 
  • Avoid the forward head position.
  • Roll your shoulders back and down.
  • Use a standing desk if at all possible.
  • When standing cycle through 3 positions- 1) one leg forward, 2) lean left or right, or 3) put a foot up on something and then switch feet.
  • Spend some time stretching and mobilizing every day.
  • Get on the floor for a few minutes every day, even if it’s just getting on the floor to watch tv.
  • Squeeze your butt muscles 5-10 seconds for every 15 minutes when you sit. 
  • Aim for walking at least 8k steps per day, and preferably 12k or more per day.
  • Perform a few simple stretches for your hips, spine, and neck every hour while you’re sitting. 

If sitting isn’t done with intention,  it can cause stiffness.  Sitting should be an active process, done with conscious effort.  Otherwise, it can cause a “cast” (like for a broken arm) to form around the spine, neck, and hips.  Stand up to stiffness, first by literally standing up as much as possible, but also by “standing up” to the bad sitting habits that cause stiffness. 


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I enjoy writing and helping people, and write on all sorts of health, wellness, nutrition, and fitness topics.   

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