How many hours do you sit in a day?
What effect does this have on your body? On your mind?
We sit. We sit a lot.
People sit for work, on a drive to work, during lunch, during meetings, coffee out with friends. This sedentary posture is so common that many people schedule in their time for a work out, perhaps assuming they will not actually get a work out during the day. The push to make things easier and comfortable is leading some to some negative health trajectories. The good news is that we can do something about it to improve our health and wellness.
To be clear, sitting is and of itself not bad. It is the amount of daily sitting combined with lack of exercise that gets us in trouble. Take home point: sitting for extended periods of time, especially with poor posture, has negative effects on our health.
What Does Extended Sitting Do to Your Body?
Over time, sitting can mess with the body in multiple ways, such as poor organ function, muscle degeneration, bad back, reduced mental clarity, general body strain and weakening.
How does all of this happen? When we sit, we are sedentary- not moving. By not moving, we are losing strength and vitality in the body resulting in circulation and oxygen intake and weakening of our muscles. When we sit, we deteriorate.
Avoiding or reducing sitting can be tough, as it is often built into the day. Between driving to and from work, sitting at a desk for a large chunk of the day, and sitting down for dinner with friends and family, sometimes it is hard to avoid sitting!
The most difficult part of breaking the sedentary lifestyle is changing daily patterns. Set achievable goals that you can pattern into your day. Are you able to avoid watching TV for an hour and instead pop on a podcast and go walking? Can you walk to lunch? Have a stationary bike in the television room? Small changes can have big effects- we are designed to be active!
Yoga to Counteract Sitting
Yoga helps us engage our muscles by bringing new blood flow to areas that we don’t always use. The breath work also helps stimulate the nervous system and keep us calm and alert. Any yoga is good for you, but the following postures are a great way to target areas that may be weakened due to prolonged sitting.
Increase spinal flexion and extension with this pairing. In Kundalini yoga, you can do this set rapidly for 3 minutes to increase energy and balance.
Hip-opening poses like half pigeon pose help to counteract the detrimental effects of sitting by stretching muscles, tendon, ligaments and fascia in the area, release emotional build up and improve the ability to deal with stress by finding calm through activating the flight or fight response we all have.
This pose engages the spine, abs, and the hamstrings- all muscles that need attention from a life with a lot sitting!
Low back pain is a common issue for many people, and sitting can aggravate it. Release the low back, stretch the hamstrings and reverse blood flow in this pose.
The First Step is to Start
These are just a few ideas of poses to insert into the day and break up the seated lifestyle. Any yoga practice is a good way to counteract the harmful effects of prolonged sitting. The biggest challenge is simply working it into your day. Start small, put in the effort, and remember that are bodies are made to move! If you feel overwhelmed, check out the Sit-Stand transition guide from Quitting Sitting.
To check yourself and your progress, start with 3 baseline days. Simply record how many hours or minutes a day you spend sitting.
Make an achievable goal to reduce sitting time and get active! Insert an activity into your sitting them.
If you need support, get some friends together and hold one another accountable.
Take a stand against the harmful effects of sitting- literally! Let us know how you do!