Most of us are aware of the negative effects of sitting. We know that being sedentary isn't good for our health and that sitting too much can set us up for postural imbalances that contribute to neck, low back and hip pain. However, the modern world revolves around sitting: in our cars, at our desks and even on our spin bikes.
That being said, there are ways to fight your desk sentence and much of the problem isn't the act of sitting itself, it's how we sit and how long we sit for. Try these tips to combat your desk sentence and make your workday more biomechanically friendly.
1. Change your position often.
Part of the problem with sitting isn't actually the act of sitting — it's that we hold the same position for too long. When we do this, our bodies adapt to this stagnant load and it's part of why we develop poor postural patterns that lead to issues like low back compression.
The fix for this is awareness. Start to notice if you've been in the same position for more than several minutes. If you favor sitting with your legs crossed, try crossing your non dominant leg or sitting in a different position entirely. If you tend to lean back and let your chair support your body weight, try sitting a little more to the middle of your seat so your muscles, not your furniture, are what hold you up.
If you have a laptop, you can also easily switch between a sitting and standing without investing in a different desk. Find a box to put on top of your desk and place your laptop on it. Now you have a standing workstation.
2. Find your sits bones when you sit.
Poor body mechanics are one reason why sitting causes joint pain. Most chairs aren't ergonomically friendly; the seat tends to be lower at the back of the chair and higher at the front edge. This design sets us up to sit with a tucked pelvis. It pushes us off of our sits bones, which encourages forward head carriage and excessive stress on the neck and low back.
If your chair is designed like this, there's an easy way to fix it. Roll up a towel and prop it under your pelvis so you feel like you can more easily find your sits bones, or the bony prominences at the bottom of your pelvis. Once you've done this, place both of your feet flat on the ground.
Notice if it's easier for you to sit taller in this position. The other bonus here is that you're now holding your spine in a more supportive place, giving you better access to your spinal stabilizers and minimizing joint compression.
3. Give your body and your eyes a break.
Where sitting can strain on our structure, excessive screen time strains our eyes since we're consistently looking at a lit object inches from our face. For every 30 minutes you spend at your desk, try to take a few minutes to look away from your computer. Even better, use this break to stretch or take a five-minute walk. It doesn't sound like much, but these small activity breaks add up over the course of the day. If you're unsure that you'll remember to do this, set a timer to remind you to take a break.
4. Go outside.
If you're setting aside time for quick breaks, try using one of them to take a walk outside. Studies have correlated spending time outside with less anxiety, depression and disease. If your work life doesn't allow for this, see if you can open a window. If that isn't an option, consider spending some time on your day off outdoors.
5. Find a self-care routine to undo the postural effects of sitting.
Even the best sitting mechanics will compress the hamstrings and shorten the hip flexors, which can take a toll on your system. This doesn't mean that you're fated to have poor posture, though. There are several self-care systems that teach you how to treat areas that get sticky and compressed, and you only have to spend a few minutes a day performing the moves to experience the benefits.
What system you choose is up to you, but some options include Yoga Tune-Up, the MELT Method and foam rolling. Mind-body programs like yoga, Pilates and the Franklin Method can address the common issues brought on by sitting.
Keep in mind that you don't need to follow all of these suggestions to experience a positive result. Just implementing one idea into your day means progress towards better health and function!