In our computer driven society we have moved away from the active roles and are spending more time sitting. As humans we have evolved from hunter gatherers and we are progressing towards a more inactive society where the incidental exercise we do is diminishing. Our bodies were designed to be active and strong yet our basic levels of strength and flexibility is reducing whilst the passive load we place on our spines is increasing. We are now in a new epidemic where sitting is increasing our incidence of a whole host of diseases, including obesity, diabetes and spinal pain.
As our bodies adapt to the demands of sitting it is becoming increasingly clear that we need to address this as a society. Many workplaces are being proactive about having flexible work spaces. Some are installing treadmill desks or break out areas with bean bags and many offices will bring in sit to stand desks. Ultimately however we need to ensure our bodies are functioning well and have the capacity to tolerate these increases in load being placed on our joints, ligaments and nerve tissue. It is critical that office workers are ‘fit to sit’. We need to ensure we maintain our inherent flexibility within the spinal system and to strengthen our core and gluteals to support the system.
There are many basic things you can do to ensure that you minimise the stress of sitting. Ensuring you take regular breaks from your desk, which means not sitting for greater than 30-40 mins and walking to chat to your colleague rather than sending the email or go and rehydrate. Doing some regular flexibility work to counterbalance the negative effects of sitting which increases spinal loading and compression on your intervertebral discs. Mobilising the system with some good basic flexibility work through your lumbar spine and thoracic spine. Exercises like Yoga or Pilates can be very effective at doing this. You also need to ensure you are doing some basic core and gluteal work. These, need to be strong to allow you enough support to be able to sit in an upright neutral position which is designed to place least stress on the spine.
Ensuring your training has some cardiovascular activity to keep a good level of endurance for your muscles. This is critical so you don’t fatigue through the day and end up overloading the spine. Keep yourself strong and flexible and you will be helping to negate the effects of sitting on the spine.