Our bodies are evolutionary designed to be in motion. They’re beautifully equipped for this. Just look at the sophisticated machinery that makes up the moving system of your hand. For millions of years humans have hunted and gathered, walked and ran. But in the very short span of “modern times”, it’s become commonplace for us to spend most of our waking hours sitting.
We can do just about everything while sitting in our chair. The digital revolution has seen to that. But it is such an alienable state for our bodies to constantly be in.
What’s especially bad is that even when we’re not at the office, on our “down time”, we can probably still be found in a chair: driving on the commute to work, surfing the net on our laptops, parked in front of the TV, or chilling at the bar with our mates.
And it’s slowly killing us.
According to studies this is actually not much of an exaggeration.
Why is being in one position all day bad for you?
While you’re not likely to spontaneously slump over dead in your chair, you are doing slow, gradual harm to your muscles in form of muscle shortening, fascia binding, and muscle atrophy. Further, you’re more at risk of doing yourself serious injury. Weak and tight muscles will still get you from the chair to the couch to the bed, but should something sudden happen, like tripping, your muscles might not be strong and reflexive enough to “catch” you in time, and you’ll end up tearing a ligament or putting your back out.
What can you do to counter this?
It’s simple. Move around. Leading an active life style and exercising regularly is the obvious advice to give. But it’s not just about getting your heart rate up. After all, it’s common for athletes to work out a certain set of muscles to move in a specific motion very well, but then easily incur an injury when their muscles are required to do a task outside their normal range of motion.
It’s about trying to incorporate as many different types of motion in your day as possible. Walk around the block, skip down the park, stretch in the morning, take the stairs instead the elevator, and dance to your favourite song.
But it’s not just that. Don’t let an entire hour go sitting at your desk where you don’t get up, and at the very least walk to the water cooler. Better yet, get up and give a few muscles a satisfying stretch. This should become a habit. While you’re sitting at your desk, start taking note of how often you stay in the same position, and make the effort to shift your position now and then. Becoming a more fidgety person is actually a healthy thing!
Also very importantly, make sure your work space and body posture is ergonomically optimised. There is plenty research material online you can use to learn this, or you can have a professional come in to give you an ergonomic assessment and teach you how to improve your work space. One would think that you’d learn all the complicated stuff about doing your job while in your college courses. You’d have thought you’d still have to learn how to sit in a chair? There is even now a trend towards standing desks, although this may sound difficult to get used to.
Basically, just let your body flex the muscles it was designed to flex. It’s amazing how the simplest change in habits could save your life.
Greg Jones is a reader, researcher and writer, with a special interest in lifestyle articles.