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Sitting is the new ….?

Sitting is the new smoking is a phrase that researchers have been using recently to describe the deleterious effects of prolonged sitting.

Looking at our current lifestyles it could not be more true.  The average office worker spends around 6 ½ hours sitting, per day.  Add on the hours spent in front of the tv or computer at night and you have close to 10 hours of sitting!!

The Mayo Clinic (1) reported on an analysis of 13 studies of sitting time and activity levels and found that those people who sat for more than eight hours a day with no physical activity had a risk of dying similar to the risks of dying posed by obesity and smoking.

What many people don’t realise is the drastic effect this is having on their posture and overall health.  This includes obesity, increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist and abnormal cholesterol levels.  Prolonged sitting also increases the risk of death from cardiovascular disease and cancer.

To counteract the huge number of hours we spend sitting at the desk, here are a few healthy things you can do…


  1. Take regular breaks! (20mins / 1 hour)

About every 20 minutes you should take a brief ‘movement break’: extend your lower back, roll your shoulders, stand and touch your toes (can you touch your toes?!) and move your neck through its full range of motion.

Once per hour it’s good to stand up and walk around for a few minutes, to improve circulation to the limbs.

Did you know that after sitting for 30 minutes your metabolism slows by around 50%, causing you to store more fat!


  1. Breathe!

Someone who is sitting with a poor, hunched over posture immediately gets 20% less oxygen to their brain.  This slows down brain function and can make you less productive.  By sitting up straight and taking full breaths, you will immediately feel less tired and be more productive.


  1. Stretch

Sitting, particularly with poor posture, tightens up a many muscles in the body.  Having tight, imbalanced muscles can cause pain and headaches, as well as greatly increasing the chances of picking up an injury when you do go and exercise. There are some great (and free!) stretching videos found on YouTube you can use to guide your stretching session after a period of prolonged sitting.


  1. Standing Desk.

If you do work at a desk, try a standing desk — or improvise with a high table or counter.  Variety is the key too.  A standing desk has the option to stand or sit.


  1. Desk / Chair / Screen Height

Having your workstation properly set up is essential to being able to hold a good posture for the entire day.  As a general rule your screen should be up at eye level, your chair should be high enough so that your shoulders are relaxed (rather than up around your ears) and you should be pushed into the back of your chair so that it is supporting a healthy (forward) curve in your lower back.



The following may help you:

    • sitting up straight and looking forward without straining
    • maintaining a small gap between the back of the knees and the chair
    • keeping the forearms and knees parallel to the floor
    • positioning knees at the same height or slightly lower than the hips
    • minimize the amount of time with your knees or ankles crossed
    • Keeping ankles in front of the knees
    • Having your feet flat, or rest them on either the floor or a footrest


  1. Drink water throughout the day.

Sort of goes without saying… but we’ll mention it anyway.


  1. See a chiropractor

Sitting with poor posture leads to restrictions in the spine, causing subluxation and putting pressure on the spinal nerves.  Over years this can lead to osteoarthritis or degeneration of the spine.  You may be surprised to learn that that it can only take four weeks for a restriction in spinal joints to start causing degenerative changes.  Chiropractors have the knowledge and expertise to locate subluxations and correct them, taking the pressure off the nerves and allowing your body to function and move optimally.  For further information on chiropractic, schedule a spinal exam.

In summary, sitting with poor posture leads to a slower digestive system, less oxygen to the brain as well as causing tight muscles and a lack of movement in the spine.  By sitting up straight, taking regular breaks and stretching you can prevent these issues. If you find that you are already having issues associated with sitting at the desk and poor posture, talk to us, we may be able to help.


P.S. Did you know…? At Align Chiropractic and Wellness we offer free (or low cost) corporate wellness talks and ergonomic assessments in your workplace.


Please contact us if you would like more information.