Get Off That Couch!
We know sitting too much is bad, and most of us intuitively feel a little guilty after a long TV binge.
But what exactly goes wrong in our bodies when we park ourselves for nearly eight hours per day, the average for a U.S. adult?
Many things, according to four experts, who detailed a chain of problems you can expect from head to toe if you don’t get off that couch!
Moving muscles pump fresh blood and oxygen to the brain and trigger the release of all sorts of brain and mood-enhancing chemicals.
When we are sedentary for a long time, everything slows, including brain function.
If most of your sitting occurs at a desk at work, craning your neck forward toward a keyboard or tilting your head to cradle a phone while typing can strain the cervical vertebrae and lead to permanent imbalances.
Sore shoulders and back
The neck doesn’t slouch alone. Slumping forward overextends the shoulder and back muscles as well, particularly the trapezius, which connects the neck and shoulders.
Some of the most painful examples of what can happen if you don’t get off that couch are related to your lower body.
Bad Back/Inflexible spine
When we move around, some disks between vertebrae expand and contract like sponges, soaking up fresh blood and nutrients.
When we sit for a long time, disks are squashed unevenly and lose sponginess. Collagen hardens around supporting tendons and ligaments.
A muscle called the psoas travels through the abdominal cavity and, when it tightens, it pulls the upper lumbar spine forward.
Upper-body weight rests entirely on the ischial tuberosity (sitting bones) instead of being distributed along the arch of the spine.
Weight-bearing activities such as walking and running stimulate hip and lower-body bones to grow thicker, denser and stronger. Scientists partially attribute the recent surge in cases of osteoporosis to lack of activity.
Muscle Degeneration will definitely happen if you don’t get off that couch!
When you stand, move or even sit up straight, abdominal muscles keep you upright. But when you slump in a chair, they go unused.
Tight back muscles and wimpy abs form a posture-wrecking alliance that can exaggerate the spine’s natural arch, a condition called hyperlordosis or swayback.
Flexible hips help keep you balanced, but chronic sitters so rarely extend the hip flexor muscles in front that they become short and tight, limiting the range of motion and stride length.
Studies have found that decreased hip mobility is a main reason elderly people tend to fall.
Sitting requires your gluteal muscles (“glutes”) to do absolutely nothing, and they get used to it. So glutes hurt your stability, your ability to push on and your ability to maintain a powerful stride.
Poor circulation in the legs
Sitting for long periods of time slows blood circulation, which causes fluid to pool in the legs.
Problems range from swollen ankles and varicose veins to dangerous blood clots called deep vein thrombosis (DVT).
Weight-bearing activities such as walking and running stimulate hip and lower-body bones to grow thicker, denser and stronger.
Scientists partially attribute the recent surge in cases of osteoporosis to lack of activity.
The Mortality Of Sitting
- People who watched the most TV in an 8 1/2 year study had a 61% greater risk of dying than those who watched less than one hour per day.
The experts recommend the following:
Sit up straight and keep your feet flat on the floor in front of you so they support about a quarter of your weight.
#3. Walking during commercials when you’re watching TV. Even a snail-like pace of 1 mph would burn twice the calories of sitting, and more vigorous exercise would be even better.
#4. Alternating between sitting and standing at your workstation. If you can’t do that, stand up every half hour or so and walk.
#5. Trying yoga poses — the cow pose and the cat pose, to improve extension and flexion in your back.
THE RIGHT WAY TO SIT
- Not leaning forward
- Elbows bent at 90 degrees
- Feet flat on the floor
- Shoulders relaxed
- Arms close to the sides
GOT ALL THAT? Don’t worry, Just Do It!
References With Thanks!
- Mayo Clinic. Reporting by Bonnie Berkowitz