Is sitting the new smoking?
Everyone knows smoking is bad for you health, but who would have thought sitting was so detrimental? Historically we have been an active society with jobs that required active movement all day long. Don’t get me wrong, there are lots of issues with that too. But in this technological era, sitting has become the norm. Some office jobs have you sitting 7-10 hours a day, yet I have patients who come in to me saying the exercise that I had them perform with a 10# kettlebell, which is usually lighter than their purse, “threw their back out for a week.” Exercise is not the enemy. When we sit for extended periods of time, our posture changes and our brains adapt to those changes. Our hip flexors and hamstrings tighten, our chest and shoulders round in and forward, and because our mid and lower backs are so stretched out , they have a hard time producing the strength to perform necessary movements to sit upright. Then, because we had that extra snack or guilty pleasure (mine is chips--Lays was right, I can’t have just one), we ask our bodies to perform exercise programs at a level that is beyond its capacity, leading to poor movement patterns, compensation and pain.
Researchers have suggested that 60-85% of us will experience low back pain in our lives, consults to doctors for shoulder pain has continually been on the rise, and amount of healthcare dollars spent on fixing injuries is staggering, yet the cost of exercise is minimal. Simple changes in habits and movement patterns can go a long way it helping you improve your musculoskeletal health. I like to give environmental cues such as every time you look at the time on your watch, phone, computer etc, sit up straight and squeeze your shoulder blades 5 times. If you are able, try to stand up at least 3 times in a hour, even if it’s for 5 seconds. These little things over the course of the day make a big impact.
Just because you have pain, doesn’t mean you should stop moving. In fact, it means you should move more, but in the right way. Learning how to improve your strength, flexibility and motor control, or how your brain coordinates, adapts and reacts to your movements, helps you continue to improve your quality of movement and decrease your pain. Don’t stop your workout, find the the best way to move with the best exercises for your pain.