Here's What Sitting All Day Does to You (and What to Do About It)

Health & Wellness By Karla

If you find yourself reaching for your lower back and craving for a neck massage after a long day of sitting down, you're not alone. Prolonged sitting can have long-term consequences on your spine and surrounding muscles, and it's your job to do everything in your power to prevent it and reverse it.

The Human Body

With over 360 joints and 700 muscles, our bodies are designed to move. Our lymphatic, nervous, and cardiovascular systems depend on it in order for everything to run smoothly. Staying still for long periods of time slows all of our systems down and makes it unable for fresh oxygen and nutrients to reach every cell in the body and repair and optimize their functions.

Our entire skeleton depends on proper alignment, and not just for the sake of our spine, but for all other mechanisms as well. Our spine is the centerfield of nerves that travel to the farthest points in our body, communicating, triggering, and sending signals for which hormones need to be released, which muscle healed, which tissue repaired, and which area more nourished.

When that system is damaged, so is the communication and signaling between the nerves. This causes delays in response and missing hints your body is giving you, making the healing process that much harder and longer.

Slouching and Wrong Sitting Posture

Sitting down creates a downward force that puts all pressure on your spinal disks and sitting bones, and slowly, over time, creates a compression that diminishes the space in between each vertebra, leaving less and less room for nerves to shoot signals through. And that's just something that happens even if your back is completely straight and you're paying an insane amount of attention to your posture.

Add the inevitable slouching, curving your upper back and bringing your neck forward, transferring the weight onto one hip by crossing your legs and leaning on one arm more than the other, and voilà, you got yourself a recipe for disaster.Your body is working really hard to adapt to this new position, causing strain and tension in some muscles in order to allow it. And sure, in the beginning, you might be feeling totally fine, but after a few hours, you'll be reaching for your neck or rolling your shoulders back to find some sort of relief.

In addition to all that, sitting can also cause leg muscle atrophy and shortening of the hip flexor muscles, leading to severe issues with hip joints and your pelvic girdle.Now if these reasons alone don't make you jump out of your chair and go for a walk, it's hard to imagine what would.

How To Prevent It or Counteract It At Work?

Is it even possible to prevent this from happening if your job requires you to sit in front of your computer all day long without any other option? Yes, yes it is, and here's exactly what you can do.

  • Stretch it out - Implement gentle and easy yoga stretches into your workday and do them as often as possible, ensuring better blood flow and a more sharpened focus, releasing tension from your neck and muscles, and alleviating straining and uncomfortable sensations.
  • Invest in a good office chair - It's no wonder these chairs cost an arm and a leg, they are your medical salvation. High-quality chairs have built-in support and ergonomic features that prevent your shoulders from drooping down, your hips from being misaligned, and the fatigue to set in before noon has even struck.
  • Take frequent breaks - Even if it means only going to the bathroom and the water fountain. Getting up and stretching your legs, lifting your arms into the sky, and simply feeling the blood start to circulate again promotes clarity and focus, stimulates your digestive system, and allows your muscles to feel alive again, sending fresh oxygen from your head to your toes. Opt for getting up every 30-45 min and feeling your body move.
  • Be smart about your lunch break - Even if you brought your own food from home, take it with you, and move to another location to eat it. Use this opportunity to grab some fresh air, go on a stroll around the building, or simply take a longer walk than your usual 2-min breaks. Your lunch will sit better on your stomach and you'll avoid the afternoon crash that usually happens after a bigger meal.
  • Focus on your posture -Pay attention to your body's shape and analyze your sitting habits. Are you always crossing your left leg over your right? Try switching it up and crossing your right over your left, balancing out your hips and allowing both lower back muscles to stretch out. Do you always seem to be inches away from your computer? Bring your head back over your pelvis and straighten your spine as much as you can, preventing neck and shoulder strain. Roll your shoulders up and back and feel your shoulder blades slide down your back, relaxing your entire upper body and expanding the space in between your shoulders and ears. Ensure your sitting bones are firmly pressed in your chair, without sinking in and leaning back. Give your body the support it needs.

How To Prevent It or Counteract It Outside Work?

In addition to paying more attention to your sitting habits at work, there are plenty of things you can do outside your office to help prevent or counteract the issues caused by prolonged time in the L-shaped position.

  • Create a consistent exercise routine - Working out is great for your overall health and wellbeing, as it keeps all of your systems in check and promotes optimal function. Making sure you're staying consistent works on your muscle toning, flexibility, and mobility levels, protecting your joints from overuse and strain. Whether it's running, swimming, kickboxing or yoga, it doesn't really matter, as long as it's frequent and fun.
  • Avoid sitting too much at home - Netflix and chill is the world's new favorite downtime activity, but if you're spending your day in a sedentary position, sitting down when you come home and sinking in your comfortable couch is not really helping you out. Try to be more active in your time off and feel your muscles get the much-needed activation. 
  • Implement foam rolling- Foam rolling is a great way to relieve muscle tension and soreness, help the body flush out toxins, and stretch out your muscles, creating more space for the joints to move freely. Start with your legs and roll all the way up to your upper back and arms, feeling the blood circulate and ease up the tension.
  • Elevate your feet - If you're struggling with water retention, sitting down can worsen the problem as your circulation gets cut off and your L-shape position makes it hard for the water to get flushed out. In addition to that, having excess water in your legs and lower back creates an even bigger compression on your pelvis and your hips. Drinking plenty of water and elevating your feet helps stimulate your lymphatic system and encourages it to do its work.

A wide-spread sedentary lifestyle is threatening with some serious and long-term damage to everyone's health. Take the matters into your own hands and beat the odds!

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