Raise your hand if you spend most of your day sitting at a desk OR standing up in one spot? (We’ll talk about the stand up desk “solution” later on.*) We know that sitting kills, but what do we do about it without sending a resignation letter to society and heading for the mountains? 

Sure, sitting or lying down after being on our feet all day feels like taking a nap in a cloud - and that isn’t bad, but when it gets to the point where your legs haven’t so much as twitched in two hours, your butt feels numb, and your head has slowly settled down to where your ears are borderline touching the tops of your shoulders, then you are setting yourself up for some serious stiffness and future pain.

The thing is, our bodies were never meant to sit in chairs. We were meant to be moving. Chairs weren’t even commonplace until the 16th century and even then they were used more as symbols of status. Stools, benches, and chests were used more as everyday seats when people needed a rest.

When we spend time in that crunched up seated position, our body starts to like it there - no matter how bad it might be for us. It adapts to the position that we are consistently placing ourselves in until our new “normal” posture consists of internally rotated shoulders, a forward slouch of the head, tight hip flexors, and tight hamstrings. When these musculoskeletal structures are always in the shortened position, they are adapting to remain in that position, causing other changes that can lead to acute and chronic pain.

That’s the unfortunate thing about our bodies being so adaptable, they are adaptable to bad habits at the same rate of being adaptable to good habits! What’s the good news? This doesn’t have to be a forever problem. We can undo the negative repercussions of the seated position through our 4 pillars - functional training, holistic nutrition, nature, and self-care ALL are important lenses to look at this issue through in order to keep our body healthy.

Functional Training

Each joint in the body has what we call a “preferred expression” between being mobile or stable. When we don’t abide by the joint’s purpose then we are going to find dysfunction in the joint that is either below or above the original joint - it falls victim to structural stress. So when the head is not stacked on top of the spine, not only does that then limit the mobility of the shoulders but the head actually feels heavier and creates more mobility in a joint that needs way more stability! In the proper upright position the human head is about 10-12lbs. In the seated position however, when we are flexing our neck forward and hunching our shoulders that weight increases. When the head tilts forward about 15º the head can feel as heavy as 27lbs. At a 60º angle (like when you’re looking at the ground) it can feel as heavy as 60lbs! SIXTY!! Talk about a weighted stretch! Would you let me push 27lbs of weight on your back if you were in a straddle position? I think not! But we are doing this everyday to ourselves!

Think about how many times a day your head is bent over your keyboard, your phone, a book- or, yeah, looking at the ground. That’s a lot of extra weight you’re carrying around! 

So we need neck-stabilizing exercises. Maybe that sounds strange but this will actually help to better your posture and alleviate stress on the spine. One example is an exercise called the Prone Cobra:

1) Lying face down, place the forehead on a rolled up hand towel for comfort.

2) Place the arms at the side, palms down on the floor.

3) Place the tongue on the roof of the mouth (this helps stabilize the muscles in the front of the neck to assist in strengthening).

4) Pinch the shoulder blades together and lift the hands off the floor. Roll the elbows in, palms out and thumbs up.

5) Gently lift the forehead about an inch off the towel keeping the eyes looking straight at the floor (do not tip the head back and look forward).

6) Hold the position for 10 seconds. Repeat.

This not only strengthens the neck but the shoulders and upper back as well. What’s great is it uses gravity as the resistance making it easy to do anywhere!

Holistic Nutrition

Spending too much time in the seated position affects us biochemically as well. From a digestive perspective, anytime the belly button is pushed toward the ribs, it cuts off our bowels. It’s not pretty but this results in constipation or diarrhea because we’re not getting food to move through the bowels the way it was meant to.

This affects the lymphatic system, too. This needs movement in order to flush fluids. So unless we are moving that fluid gets stuck and causes us to feel depressed.

At this point, when you feel achy and depressed after a long day of … sitting, is there really any kind of motivation to cook something full of nutrients for dinner? Of course not. We get lazy. We then find ourselves focusing on convenient foods and because we are low in energy due to stagnation all we want are the carbs and sugars. Unfortunately, our society is not structured in a way that is meant to keep us healthy. It is structured in a way that makes people money. And convenient foods like fast food, frozen entrees, junk food- they have a large profit margin, but extremely low nutrient value.

It’s a tough cycle. As human beings we are more motivated and focused to be our best selves when we have energy. We get energy by eating nutrient-dense foods. But when we are sitting all day, haven’t been able to flush the lymphatic system, and feel blue, we’re already setting ourselves up for low energy and no motivation. When we are tired like this we make bad decisions based on convenience … we are really just a train barrelling down a path that’s not healthy or happy.

It’s SO important to create nutrition convenience for times like these. Being focused on your intentions when it comes to food is Step 1. Are you eating for nutrients? If not, change this right away. The decision-making process is crucial otherwise how do you make your food choices? Low sugar, high in greens, healthy fats and fibre is what we tell our clients. Step 2 - plan ahead. Meal prep. Step 3 - Stop being so cheap. Cheap food is an illusion - you either pay for it at the cash or with your health. Thank you Michael Pollan for this quote. Start choosing food that is local, organic, seasonal and stop looking for the sale. When you do, you end up eating sh%t no one else wants - you DESERVE high quality foods.

Nature

When you look at an animal, any animal, what do yo notice? They are ALWAYS moving. When you look at the run of a cheetah to the swerve of a shark or the flight of a bird, they are all flawless movers (they woke up like this) unless they have an injury. For the majority of humans, barring injury, we still don’t move very well. Our modern society panders to the stagnant. Don’t feel like doing something? No sweat, there’s an app for that.

This goes back to the idea of living conveniently. In this way, society is working against each and every one of us to put monetary gain ahead of health. Isn’t that nuts? No other species deliberately works against itself. We can really benefit from emulating and taking cues from animals to make our movement much better than it is.

It’s not just animals, all NATURE is moving ahead. There is no backwards for nature and we are no different. Plug into your life and progress. The seated position is a DEFEATED position. Assume the position of progress and victory - proud chest, upright, strong, commanding, and open. When we are in this position we feel like kings and queens.

Self-Care

As we’ve discussed, sitting all day negatively affects our posture. It causes internally rotated shoulders, cutting off the lungs so that we are not breathing properly. When this happens, our ribs also aren’t moving so they aren’t massaging our adrenal glands in the back. It’s a dangerous domino effect. The adrenal glands, of course, are responsible for producing hormones that help us deal with stress. The irony? We think sitting is restful … but it can actually contribute to more stress!

Lastly, it’s no secret that movement helps to release endorphins. This brain chemical also helps us manage stress, boost mood, and reduces feelings of pain … pain perhaps caused by sitting for long periods of time?

Self care is knowing that we are making sacrifices to our health by engaging in the work we want to do everyday and doing something about it. You must put in effort in order to be EPIC otherwise - we’re just like everyone else. Who wants that?

We understand that there are some cases, with such a busy workday, or even for regular daily tasks like driving, sitting is simply unavoidable. But we can combat the negative effects. Step number one is identifying the problem. Step two is taking action! Check out one of our Animal Flow classes to learn how to move properly. Or try a Pelvic Floor Therapy session to better your breathing. This is how we take a mundate, normal part of our everyday and level it up. It’s what #theEPIClife is about!