Sunday, February 27, 2011

Posture and Sitting Series: Article II – Sitting Too Much May Kill You

Posture and Sitting Series: Article II – Sitting Too Much May Kill You
As we have pointed out many times in this blogs history, it is important to meet certain requirements in order to be considered an active adult.  We can recognize that if a person is to work out for 45-60 minutes each day they receive many health benefits including but not limited to controlling weight, decreasing blood pressure, and relieving physical and mental stress. But the question that remains is "What are you doing the other 14-16 hours of the day?"

In the past we used to judge ones fitness level strictly based on the amount that they worked out.  "In simple terms, if you were exercising for 60+ minutes/day, you were considered physically active. If you were exercising 10 minutes/day, you were sedentary."1  And by association those who were physically active where healthy and those who were sedentary sat too much throughout the day which made them unhealthy.  But in the true meaning, sedentary means any time that you are sitting.  So that person that is working out 60+ minutes/day may be sedentary if he or she is sitting for the other 16 hours of the day.  "Thus, to quote researcher Marc Hamilton, sitting too much is not the same as exercising too little."1  This is a very important statement.

Multiple studies have shown that sitting too much, disregarding the amount of physical activity one gets can kill you.  A study by Katzmarzyk et al. (2009) showed that those patients with common illnesses who sat the most throughout their day were 50% more likely to die upon follow-up even when controlling for many factors such as smoking, age, and physical activity levels.  Another study by Genevieve Healy et al. (2008) found that "The greater the number of breaks taken from sedentary behavior, the lower the waist circumference, body mass index, as well as blood lipids and glucose tolerance."1
Many more studies on this subject can be found at Scientific American.

Now just sit there for a second (no pun intended) and think about your daily activities.  Let me guess, you sit most of the day.  You are not alone, western society sits most of the day, it's how our lives are formed.  We sit at work, sit in our car, sit to read and write emails, and I bet your are sitting right now to read a blog on how sitting too much can kill you.  So for now, get up and move around.  You life depends on it.


Monday, February 7, 2011

Posture and Sitting Series: Article I - Avoid Computer Hunch

In the upcoming months I plan on bringing you a series of blog entries focused on how sitting and posture can affect your body and health. Many patients who I see in the clinic could have avoided their injuries and/or dysfunctions if they would have listened to their elders who always preached “sit up straight.”  The majority of the population sit for prolonged periods of time either for their job or to unwind in front of the television.  While we are sitting or standing many of us have incorrect posture which increases stress on our joints leading to degeneration and pain.  So stay tuned over the next couple months for all the information you can handle on sitting and posture corrections.  As with any exercise program make sure to talk to your physician or physical therapist to be cleared for these types of exercises.

Step 1: Avoid the dreaded “computer hunch”

You just adjusted your posture didn’t you?”  Whether it’s your primary task at work or your favorite way to pass the time, hunching over the computer can cause a gamut of hip, back, neck, and shoulder problems.  I myself sit at the computer to do patient documentation and then sit longer to do online shopping, read the news and write blog articles for you.  It takes a lot of will power to maintain good posture during all of this; completing some relatively easy stretches throughout your day will help avoid “the hunch”.

1.          1.  Shoulder Blade Squeezes – This exercise will help avoid having “rounded shoulders.”  Sit up straight, engage your abdominal muscles as if you were bracing for a punch.  Make sure your shoulders are relaxed and that your shoulders are not shrugging up to your ears.  Squeeze your shoulder blades together and down. Hold for 5 seconds. Repeat 10x each hour.

2.        2.  Chin Tucks – This exercise will help reduce “forward head posture” where your head is sticking forward toward the monitor; this posture can increase strain on the neck.   Tuck your chin straight back as if you were making a double chin.  Hold for 5 seconds. Repeat 10x each hour.

3.       3.  Wrist Circles – Ok, this one won’t correct your posture but it will keep you from getting stiff in the wrists and decrease your chance of getting a repetitive use injury.  Turn your wrists in one direction 10x, repeat in the other direction.  Repeat every hour.

4.       4.  Chair Twist – Begin by sitting in a chair with good posture (looking straight ahead and with your chest up).  You back should be against the back rest and you should be sitting "tall".  Reach with one arm around you to the back rest.  In this tall posture twist using your arm to help you pull.  Hold for 20 seconds and then repeat on the other side.  Repeat this for both sides every hour.

5.      5.  Back Extension - Standing, place your hands on your lower back.  Squeeze your gluts (your bottom) tight to stabilize your pelvis and then lean backward.  Only go as far as is comfortable and not into painful ranges.  Hold for 5 seconds and repeat 5 times every hour.

It is important to do these exercises throughout the day if you are sitting at a desk.  It is recommended that you perform these exercises for 5 minutes for every hour that you are sitting in your desk.   If any pain or complications should occur make sure to talk to you physician or physical therapist before continuing.