Almost monthly, some form of media brings to light the ill effects of sitting. Those effects may actually seem counterintuitive – instead of feeling well rested and energetic, we are more likely to feel tired and achy. Countless studies prove that sitting shortens our lifespans as a result of increased cardiovascular disease and general musculoskeletal deterioration. So why is it that we sit so much? And what can we do about our sitting epidemic?
Our culture starts us sitting early. Beginning in pre-school, we learn to sit. And that lesson is reinforced as we progress through our school systems. Then, aside from a limited number of active jobs, we sit even more once we are in the workforce.
The habit of sitting that we learn in education and professional life often carries over to extracurricular activities. Those activities might include watching television, going out to dinner or grabbing a drink. It is surprising how much time we spend not moving.
There are many simple ways to limit the negative effects of sitting. Switching to a sit-to-stand workstation is a great option to allow both sitting and standing throughout the day. Setting an alarm to take a walk or perform standing stretches is a fantastic strategy to break up long periods spent sitting. Taking phone calls via Bluetooth or some similar mobile call option can provide additional opportunities to stand rather than sit.
Below are some simple, effective exercises to do at work while sitting or while on a short standing break:
Seated 3-Dimensional Reaches @ Overhead*
Seated Legs Crossed with Counter-Rotation Reaches @ Overhead*
3D Lunges to Box with Reaches @ Overhead*
Squats with 3D Reaches @ Overhead*
The above exercises are designed to drive more motion in your hips and thoracic spine (mid/upper back). Keeping these areas flexible and keeping the surrounding muscles strong will help prevent low back pain and many other injuries.
Conclusion: Fixing Our Culture of Sitting
Breaking our culture of sitting starts with teaching our kids the value of moving and teaching them how to learn without sitting all day. Their bodies also need more mid back and hip mobility as well as strength to control their joints. Integrating functional exercises - like those shown in the videos above - into the classroom is a great way to help kids move and feel better during the day.
Gray Institute: Gray Institute created a program called Free2Play which is being integrated in many schools throughout the nation and teaches students about movement and offers exercises for students to try while in class. Although targeted to children, Free2Play is a fantastic and free resource for anyone interested in movement.
Breaking up prolonged sitting reduces postprandial glucose and insulin responses
Occupational sitting time – employees’ perceptions of health risks and intervention strategies
Prolonged sitting: is it a distinct coronary heart disease risk factor?
Reducing occupational sitting time and improving worker health: the take-a-stand project 2011
Sitting time and all-cause mortality risk in Australian adults
Too much sitting – a health hazard
*Disclaimer – if you attempt these exercises, you are doing so at your own risk. Although these exercises are designed to help you, there is always a risk of injury with any exercise.
Dan Benson, DPT, OCS, FAFS, GPS, CAFS, FMR
CEO Forefront Physical Therapy
Doctor of Physical Therapy
Orthopedic Certified Specialist
Fellow of Applied Functional Science from the Gray Institute
Nike Golf Performance Specialist
Certified in Applied Functional Science
Certified in Functional Manual Reaction
Forefront Physical Therapy
Belltown, South Lake Union, Lower Queen Anne
We love writing about injury prevention and functional exercise. We want everyone to share in our motto: movement for a healthy life!