I am NOT overdramatic when I say that spending too much time sitting is not a good thing.
Many of us do this for a variety of reasons.
Whether we work at a desk all day, or we’re just lazy, hanging out in a chair for hours at a time wreaks havoc on the body.
My friend Nataly over at Myrka Street wrote a post about the adverse effects that sitting has on the body. In it, she shared an infographic and a couple of helpful videos, so I encourage you to check it out.
However, in this post, I’m going to come at you from a different angle.
Not only will I dispense some tips and ideas you can easily follow if you fit into this category, but I’ll even throw in some thought provoking questions to awaken the desire to become more present so you can remember to follow the suggestions instead of simply reading about them and saying “hey, yeah that’s great – I need to do that” – and then forgetting all about it.
Because let me tell you something…
This is going to catch up with you. I just about guarantee it.
And when it does, it won’t be pretty.
Your life will become hell because pain isn’t cool.
So get ready to bookmark this post, pin it and refer to it for a reminder when you need to get up and move around.
You’ll want to start doing this as soon as possible.
How to Save Your Back from the Damage of Sitting Too Much
The good news is, there are things you can do to help alleviate the damage that inevitably occurs when you spend a lot of time sitting.
You don’t have to do anything dramatic, but you do need to be present, mindful and persistent.
It also doesn’t matter whether you sit too often because of work, or anything else.
The idea is to take action in small, but consistent ways. You’ll follow the path of least resistance and stick with it.
There are three things you can do starting right now (and after finishing this sentence, I’ll be doing this as well).
- Use the Pomodoro Technique
- Stretch and Move Around Daily
- Strengthen Your Core
1 – Use the Pomodoro Technique
The Pomodoro technique was created as a way to implement time management wisely and in an organized fashion.
It’s a pretty simple technique, and you can use it for any project.
You set a timer for 25 minutes. In this amount of time, you do your work without breaking concentration. When the timer goes off, you take a mandatory 5-minute break.
In those 5 minutes, you are NOT to continue working. This is YOUR time.
If you watch the video here, you’ll learn that it’s a good idea to have your cycles of this set in advance depending on your projects. However, I still find that you can be creative about how to use this.
But to stick with what I’ve discovered to be most effective, you would:
Set a cycle of four timers. This would be for two hours worth of work.
You don’t have to have an actual timer. There are free ones you can use online.
If for example, you’ve decided on those two hours, you would work for 25 minutes and take a 5-minute break. You would do this four times – and then either choose to continue or take a 15-30 minute break.
How you manage that is up to you (as far as I’m concerned).
In those 5 minute breaks, you would get up, walk around, stretch or just find a way to move in general.
This would provide you with 10 minutes per hour to relieve your body of the stress of sitting (yes, I did say the stress of sitting) and allow for the blood to flow and muscles to be used.
If you set that timer, you’ll be reminded of the intentions you’ve set for yourself. We all know how easy it is to get caught up in what we’re doing and forget about our well-being.
Try this technique out. I have no doubt it’ll do you (and your back) some good.
2 – Stretch and Move Around Daily
While I am aware that not everyone is motivated to exercise, stretching and light movement shouldn’t be an issue.
This is not only doable, regardless of your current level of fitness, but it’s super pleasant.
I can’t express how wonderful your body feels while you’re stretching, and afterward. You just feel lighter, more limber and free.
I encourage moving around a little before stretching or engaging in dynamic (movement based) stretching because it’s easier (and in my opinion, safer) to do this when the muscles are warm.
Don’t force a stretch. Your body will tell you when you’re about to overdo it.
Listen to your body when it tells you a specific movement isn’t pleasant. It’s fine to feel a mild sense of tension in the presence of a stretch, but it will be accompanied by a feeling of relief as well.
If you feel an impending strain, pain or cramp, stop. That means you’re doing too much. Nothing good can come from this. There are consequences to forcing your body to do what it isn’t capable of doing.
I’ll also include this video to offer you some stretches you can do at work.
3 – Strengthen Your Core
One of the best ways to prevent pain and immobility, even in the presence of long durations of sitting is to have a strong and flexible core.
The core includes any and all muscles between the shoulders and legs. It includes your hips, which benefit from being flexible and capable of moving with ease in all planes (sagittal/ forward and backward, frontal/ side to side and horizontal/ rotational) of human movement.
The plank is an excellent way to build core strength. Pushups are great too, and so is anything that involves light twisting and lateral flexion.
Lateral flexion is the act of same side bending and extending. An example of this is to stand straight and reach your hand down that same thigh. The internal obliques are targeted with this movement.
Rotation is when you twist your trunk (mid back – including the entire thoracic spine). This works the external obliques – which lie on top of the (deep) internal obliques.
This is why a variety of movements is so important.You can also work these muscles statically (without moving). If you were to hold a side plank, you’d be working your internal obliques in the absence of bending them.
If you are new to exercise, start at a beginner’s level. It’s the safest way to begin an exercise program and you’ll avoid unnecessary injury.
I’ll share a couple of videos you can follow along with to give you some ideas of how to strengthen your core, regardless of your immediate environment.
Here’s one demonstrating simple plank variations from beginner to expert level:
And here’s a dynamic exercise you can do. She has a medicine ball, but you can still do this without equipment.
Lastly, here’s a beginner’s level of a standing knee to opposite elbow core exercise for strength and flexibility.
You can progress this as you go along, but from the videos I’ve watched, this one seems most appropriate to share.
Applying This Consistently
You don’t have to be an exercise maniac to gain the benefits of movement.
Simple, but consistent applications will work beautifully.
By combining these three techniques, you’ll remember to do this, you’ll experience the positive effects of stretching and you’ll build some core strength and mobility.
You’ll also take these breaks in an effort to get some “me time”, which is an excellent way to reconnect with yourself. It’ll alleviate stress, get you centered and provide you with the ability to discipline yourself regarding your well-being.
I had to get up several times while writing this because even though I’ve exercised plenty over the last several years, my back gets sore and tight from too much sitting.
I do a lot of writing, and combined with the years I had spent as a hairstylist – bending and stretching unnaturally for hours at a time, I have to be mindful. Otherwise, I’ll get a flare up – and when I do, it isn’t fun.
And Those Thought Provoking Questions I Mentioned Earlier…
Some of you may have a hard time making this work.
It won’t be because these tips are difficult to follow. It’ll be because you either have limiting beliefs about what you think you can or cannot do – or you may work in a field that doesn’t “allow you” to take breaks.
As I had mentioned, I worked as a hairstylist for 20 years. I was a shampoo assistant for 2 years prior to getting my Cosmetology license.
There were many days when I wasn’t permitted to take a break because of the huge pile up of work to be done.
I suffered for this, and it was a big reason I wanted to leave the field altogether.
I would often skip meals and I would stand for hours at a time in pain. There were clients to attend to – and of course, money to be made.
I’ve decided that there is no price tag on my well-being. I’d rather earn less and be healthy.
And there may be a few of you out there who work for places that don’t allow you to take the time to be good to yourself, regardless of the reason.
Or maybe you work for yourself and don’t feel you can afford to take breaks because you won’t be able to meet those deadlines and make your clients happy.
Well, I have some questions to ask you:
~ Can you do good work if you’re suffering in pain?
~ Are you an asset to someone else if you’re a liability to yourself?
~ And how does money make it ok to endure pain – if you’ll have to use that same money you’ve been killing yourself over to pay for the medical expenses that will pile up because of your actions?
Think about that for a minute and with a clear mind, ask yourself if you’re worth being well.
And if your boss has a problem with it, you can remind them that unless the company is happy to shell out thousands of dollars to cover your care just so they can overwork you…
…so that your contribution to their profit level gets spent covering your medical bills over easily preventable conditions – you’ll make your decisions regarding your well-being, thank you very much.
And if it costs you your job, ask yourself this:
~ Can you work your job efficiently while you’re doped up on pain medication?
~ Can you stand/sit for hours at a time with a herniated disc or inflammation of the sacroiliac joints – and focus on what you’re doing and be productive?
~ And would it be so bad to maybe, just maybe simplify your lifestyle and expenses to allow for your health to take priority over keeping up with the Joneses?
Or more accurately, your “IDEA” of what the Joneses have ( btw, most of these folks are deeply in debt – and have no life, freedom or peace.)
Grab your power. No one else will do it for you.
Be good to yourself or others will gladly take advantage of you. Not because they’re bad people, but because they too are in survival mode – and still unconsciously unconscious about what life is really about.
If YOU are someone whose well-being comes before profit, you’ll set a standard for others to follow.
This will begin to create a world filled with empowered people…and it’ll be a good thing.
No one owns you. You are your “dictator.” Not your boss, not your spouse, not your relatives.
Sorry for my rant, but I am passionate about encouraging others to align with their strength.
Take charge of your well-being.
If you aren’t sure where to start, a wellness coach can help. I offer a complimentary no obligation consultation. Click here for more information.
Try my tips out and let me know how they work in the comments section.
Do you suffer from the effects of sitting for too long?