Articles on sitting

Raise Your Hand if You Are Sitting Right Now!

Dr. Naveen Babu, Physiotherapist
Sitting All Day And Night May Not Lead To An Early Death When Physical Activity Is Part Of Your Routine Life:First, it was said that sitting was as bad as smoking. Then, it was found out that sitting is affecting our muscle movement and brain activity, making our butts bigger, and leaving our DNA open to aging. To combat this, you probably asked your employer to sign off on one of those fancy standing desks everyone was talking about. Then, you found out that standing desks weren’t as good as everyone said. Thankfully, a new study has found that our general beliefs about sitting for prolonged periods might not be as hazardous as previously claimed.Contrary to studies that showed even gym time can’t reverse the effects of long sitting periods, researchers from the University of Exton and the University College London found that if you are otherwise physically active, sitting for a long time doesn’t necessarily mean you are on your way to an early death.The researchers had 5,000 civil servants in London record when they sat at work and at home over the course of 16 years. 3,720 men and 1,412 women were involved in the study, and age, race, gender, socioeconomic status, general health, smoking, alcohol consumption, and diet were taken into account, as well as the amount of walking and exercise.What they found, however, was that many of the civil servants spent twice as much time walking a day than other London residents, even though the participants used London public transportation.“Our findings suggest that reducing sitting time might not be quite as important for mortality risk as previously publicized and that encouraging people to be more active should still be a public health priority,” said lead author Richard Pulsford, a researcher in the sport and health sciences department at the University of Exeter.Though the researchers agree that the study could use more research in determining if sitting can lead to diabetes, or if a person’s physical posture or lack of motion is the real reason that sitting is determined to be harmful, they concluded their study by stating, “policy makers and clinicians should be cautious about placing emphasis on sitting behavior as a risk factor for mortality that is distinct from the effect of physical activity.”It might seem as if every day a new study comes out saying sitting is bad or sitting is not so bad, but either way the message remains the same: Make sure you get at least some exercise every single day.

Are You a Sitting Duck to Heart Disease?

Dr. Vishwas Virmani, Physiotherapist
Stand up. Stretch your muscles, they’ll thank you for it.When was the last time you had a heavy lunch, headed back to work, sat and worked at a stretch for 2 hours? Probably not too long ago. Studies have proven that people who sit for four hours or longer at a stretch are at a higher risk for chronic illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease.Modern lifestyle and technology have helped us get ahead but not at their own cost. There are many studies that categorically prove the ill effects of sedentary lifestyle combined with crazy work hours. This means that finishing that urgent presentation without listening to your body could spell disaster for your heart. One of the greatest causes for heart attacks- sitting for long hours either at work on in front of the television, could be the worst thing you’re doing to your body.But it’s not all bad. There’s still hope for us folks that are stuck to comfy chairs all day. Bringing small changes in your daily life can go a long way. Small breaks taken in between work to just walk up to the coffee machine or climbing stairs instead of taking the elevator are seemingly inconsequential things that can actually make a difference.While hitting the gym everyday might not be possible, squeezing in just 30 minutes of exercise on most days of the week could be your ticket to a longer, happier life. Pick an activity you enjoy- cycling, walking or even skipping. Anything’s good as long as it gets you off your couch!So go on, take the stairs on your way back from work. Skip that late night movie and wake up for a morning stroll instead. Your heart will thank you for it!

Is Sitting Increasing Your Heart Risk?

Ms. Swati Kapoor, Dietitian/Nutritionist
A sedentary lifestyle may increase the risk of diseases like diabetes and heart problems. It is really important to do some moderate to intense physical activity everyday. Physical workout in the form of exercise is very beneficial for all ages. It releases good hormones and helps to reduce stress, which is also responsible for lifestyle diseases like diabetes, heart problems and obesity.According to the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heart failure affects over 5 million people in the US, where it contributes to around 1 in 9 deaths and costs the nation an estimated $32 billion a year.According to new research published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation: Heart Failure says –“Sitting for long periods increases heart failure risk in men, even for those who exercise regularly”The question that arises is that how does sitting increase the risk for heart failure. The reason given by Prof. Sara Rosenkranz is that when we sit for a long time, the muscle contraction activity lowers, due to which a molecule called lipoprotein lipase or LPL, shuts down. LPL converts fat into energy, for use by the body. She also explains that "We're basically telling our bodies to shut down the processes that help to stimulate metabolism throughout the day and that is not good. Just by breaking up your sedentary time, we can actually regulate that process in the body."One way to avoid prolonged sitting during the workday is to switch to a standing desk. An easier, no-cost solution is to set your smartphone timer to go off every 30 to 60 minutes during the day. When the alarm rings, “Stretch and move around the office to avoid any prolonged sitting,” Dr. Manson recommends.So, along with exercise, it is really important to also spend some time standing. Also, when we are sitting, we tend to eat more unnecessarily and even binge. Make it a point, whether you are at the workplace or at home, to spare some time in between to get up and walk around or at least do some light stretches.

"Exercise" While Sitting at Your Computer

Dt. Itu Chhabra, Dietitian/Nutritionist
Being glued to your desk while typing away at your computer for an average of 8-10 hours a day may be a part of your normal routine. However, sitting at the computer all day may not exactly be good for the body, as it can bring about backaches due to poor posture and eye strain. The lack of activity (sedentary lifestyle) can also lead to additional weight gain and increases your risk for cardiovascular disease, among other effects.On the other hand, being in a desk job does not have to be an ordeal for your health. If you are one of those people who have to be at a desk all day long, there are some simple steps that you can follow in order to improve your posture and keep your health in check.1. Observe the proper sitting posture in a good chair that is designed for desk work. Your back should be straight, your shoulders back, and the top of your monitor should be level with your eyes. If you have to look down or up, then you need to adjust the height of your screen. Also, make sure that your wrists do not lie on the keyboard or on the mouse pad (unless you have a pad with a wrist rest). This will help prevent Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Keep your legs bent at the knees so that the knees are only slightly higher than your hips. Feet should be flat on the floor or on a step stool of some sort.2. Do simple stretching exercises. Stretch your arms, legs, neck and torso while sitting. This will help prevent you from feeling stiff.Neck: To stretch your neck, flex your head forward/backward, side to side and look right and left. This can be done almost anytime to lessen tension and strain. Never roll your head around your neck. This could cause damage to the joints of the neck.Shoulders: Roll your shoulders forward around 10 times, then backward. This helps release the tension off your shoulders.Arms and Shoulders: A good stretch for your arms and shoulders is to brace your hands on the edge your desk, each about a shoulder width away from your body. Twist your hands in so they point toward your body and lean forward, hunching your shoulders. Take this a step further and push your shoulders and elbows closer to the desk.Wrists: Roll your wrists regularly, around every hour or so. Roll the wrists 10 times clockwise, then 10 times counterclockwise. This will help prevent Carpal Tunnel Syndrome if you spend a lot of time typing.Ankles: Roll your ankles regularly. As with your wrists, roll the ankles in a clockwise motion 10 times, then counterclockwise. This helps improve blood circulation, and prevents that tingling feeling you can get when blood circulation is cut off, also known as "Pins and Needles".Chest: Notice if you tend to hunch in front of the keyboard. To counter that, perform the following exercise: open your arms wide as if you are going to hug someone, rotate your wrists externally (thumbs going up and back) and pull your shoulders back. This stretch is moving your body the opposite way to being hunched and you should feel a good stretch across your upper chest.Abdomen: Contract your abdominal and gluteal muscles, hold them there for a few seconds, then release. Repeat this for every few minutes all day long while you are working at your desk. You can also perform Kegels (pelvic floor exercises) while sitting.Calves: Stretch your calves. While sitting, lift up your legs on the balls of your feet and set them down. Repeat until your legs are comfortably tired. Repeat after about 10 minutes later, and continue doing this routine for about an hour or so. This will exercise your calves, and will help prevent blood clots from developing in your legs. Blood clots are very common among middle-aged computer users.3. Stand up every half hour to walk around a bit. This will ensure continuous blood circulation in your arms and legs, and will keep them from getting too strained. Take walks to the water station to refill your glass. If you can afford to take longer breaks, take a short walk outside your building, and use the stairs instead of the elevator to go down. Aside from giving your legs and heart a good workout, you would be able to take in fresh air as well.4. Give your eyes a break from focusing on your screen. Every 30 minutes or so, shift your focus from the computer screen and scan around other subjects in the room, such as a window, clock, desk, or door. This helps promote eye movement and lessens chances of eye irritation and headaches. Another technique to relax your eyes would be to rub your hands together, then place your cupped hands over your eyes.5. Take advantage of the downtime created by rebooting or large file downloads. Get up and take short walks around your floor. If you can afford to do it and do not have many co-workers around who would be bothered, try something more ambitious such as doing a few push-ups, sit-ups, and/or jumping jacks.6. Do exercises with the help of a few tools:Acquire a hand gripper. They are cheap, small and light. When you have to read something either on the screen or on paper, you probably won't be needing to use your hands very often, so use this opportunity squeeze your gripper. It is an excellent forearm workout.Acquire an elastic band (also cheap, small and light) and use it to do the actions mentioned above (i.e., when stretching your arms, do it by pulling apart the elastic band). This will stretch and work the muscles slightly.Invest in a large size stability ball or stability ball-style desk chair, and sit on it with back straight and abs firm. You burn calories stabilizing your core and body on the ball. While an actual stability ball is more effective, the chair is a more viable option to use in an office environment. While sitting or talking on the phone, you can bounce or do basic toning exercises. Use the actual ball form in moderation when typing, as this is probably not the most supportive seating to prevent carpal tunnel and tendinitis.7. Take a few deep breaths. To work your abdominal muscles, hold your stomach for a few seconds when breathing in, then release when breathing out. If possible, get some fresh air in your lungs by taking a walk outside, as mentioned in a previous step.8. Have a bottle of water by your side and make a habit of drinking some every half hour. If you do this consistently you will begin to feel more alert. Take trips to your water refilling station to refill your jug or glass, so that you can also walk around and exercise your legs at the same time.9. Find opportunities to move by conducting a walking meeting, taking the stairs when available, walking to another office instead of calling or emailing, walking around your building during lunch. 

Are You Sitting Rightly? Fix Your Posture

Dr. Vishwas Virmani, Physiotherapist
It is rightly quoted,by Morihei Ueshiba " A good stance and posture, reflect a proper state of mind." Whilst many of us spend a major portion of the day sitting - in front of the laptop, for TV, studies and for varied other reasons, are we sitting rightly, is the important question! A bad posture strains our postural muscles, resulting in back pain.At a tender age of 20 something, Hanisha, suffers from back ache, reason for which can be attributed to prolonged hours of sitting in wrong posture, for studies. Siddhita, a designer by profession , despite maintaining weight and exercise routines,realized much later when she too became a victim of back pain that if only she would have worked on her posture, she could have kept the pain away, that now engulfs her.Here are some ways youcan fix your posture, keeping the back pain away and sitting rightly when youdoGet The Right Chair -Hanisha on discoveringthe reason for her back pain, was advised to invest in a well to do chair, toensure she gets the right support for her lower back. One that supports thespinal curvature and allies the bones and joints rightly to ascertain accurateusage of the muscles. This eliminates any stress caused to the ligaments thatgrip the joints of spinal column in place. A well- supporting chair alsolessens the irregular exhausting of joint exteriors that can end result inarthritis. All in all a good chair thatsupports the back, also eases muscle tension and relaxes the shoulders all whatyou need to keep the right posture intact.Sit Correctly -Siddhita, ends up sitting long hours on her desk sketching designs. She now, makes sure, she sits straight up and rests her back on the chair with her behinds coming in contact with the lower support of the chair. She places her feet right on ground, adjusting the flexibility of the chair to her height. Keeps her hands close to her abdomen region - sides and on the arm rests to keep her shoulders at ease. In addition, when sitting,keep your feet flat on the floor, knees right angled and at a position above the hips. Keep a pillow to support your back if back pain gives time and again trouble. Also, the pillow will help in keeping your back aligned. Balance your weight uniformly on both hips, not adding an added weight burden on any one hip. Lastly, for every 30 minutes you sit, stand thereafter for some time. Flex your muscles, just as much as you rest them while being seated.

Take a Stand and Burn Those Health Hazards: Standing vs Sitting Health Benefits

Dr. Vishwas Virmani, Physiotherapist
The 9-5 rigmarole we shudder to think of, is a grind we are most used to. From morning till late evening, most of our time at work goes with sitting, and that isn’t a good thing say experts. Did you know, there is a vast amount of difference with regard to calories burnt while standing as compared to sitting!Don’t drop that jaw when you read the above statement, for every bit of that line is true. It is but ergonomically proven and for sure, standing has shown plenty of health benefits to reap- loss of unwanted calories for sure. With sitting being firmly established as a health hazard when overdone, there are studies that show how various diseases take over physically and mentally, when we sit for too long and too much. Replacing an hour of sitting with that of standing would certainly be a good idea and a faster way to burn those calories too. No one is asking you to stand in front of your laptop all day long as work, it isn’t possible and is certainly not pain-free as well. But over time it would when you decide to stand more and sit less, see the results on how many extra calories you burned over time. Sources from the esteemed JustStand.Org have calculators that tell you how many calories one can loose per hour. For example, an empirical data shows 100 calories burnt while sitting for an hour, whereas in the same time frame while standing, you could lose 130 calories. Decide now for yourself, which would be best for you? Standing or sitting! And to do your own calculations on the same, check with Right Way to Stand and WorkIf you are done with the calculations and have made a decision to stand and work, here are a few ways to do that right-1.    Even while you are at work, ensure to take a standing break every twenty minutes. This allows your body to contract and expand its muscles, which also helps in allowing the blood flow happen as well.In the words of NYTimes Reporter, Gretchen Reynolds, it is clear that standing versus sitting;the former has more benefits “New science shows very persuasively that standing up about every 20 minutes, even for only a minute or two, reduces your risks of developing diabetes and heart disease.” Says Gretchen, after her research on how the body responds physiologically.2.    Sitting as compared to standing, leads the body into many forms of sedentary side-effects. Read more from Gretchen’s take away on her research right3.    The Cornell Ergonomics lab studies show how we should stand and work, which means the right posture and stance while standing at work!For example:●     The computer monitor shouldn’t be far (not more than 20-28 inches) from your eyes.●     The computer screen tilt shouldn’t be lesser than 20 degrees or more than that.●     The height of the table should be by the elbow or a little below.●     90-degree angle to the keyboard is a must for elbow placement.Sitting is okay to an extent, but not always recommended since the sedentary work ways can bring in a host of health issues.

Sleep Better Tonight: Lying Straight vs Lying on Your Stomach on Bed

Dr. Vishwas Virmani, Physiotherapist
Positions and Movements Providing Relief:These positions and movements structurally lengthen and decompress the spine. They will assist your body in undoing some of the compressive, shortening, and rounding effects that gravity has in your posture.Back Lying Extension Rest Position:Stretch out on your back with your legs resting out or up on a few pillows or on top of an ottoman, chair seat, couch; try placing a folded sheet under your low, middle, or upper back to support your normal arch and to assist in lengthening the spine; by placing your arms up and out to the sides, you‘ll provide a nice decompression to your spine and chest wall. If your arms are tight, start with them supported comfortably on pillows.Lying on Stomach:Place a flat pillow under your upper chest to allow your head /neck to relax forward on your hands, or to be turned sideways without straining. If you feel that lying on your stomach causes an uncomfortable amount of pressure to your lower back, place a pillow under your lower abdomen this may be more comfortable at first, especially if you are not used to lying on your stomach.Stomach Lying On Elbows:Gently shift your shoulders from side to side in this position; allow your low back to relax and sag. If this position is uncomfortable for your shoulders, place a few pillows under your chest to relieve some of the pressure. Relax in this position as long as it is comfortable. If you find this helpful, get into the habit of using this position in the evening as a short term alternative to sitting.Press-Ups And Back Bending:This move should be your first line of defense when you stand up after a long duration of sitting! This is especially important if you have difficulty and/or pain when attempting to stand up after sitting a while. Place your hands on your low back and the buttocks. Slowly, gently lean back with your legs straight; don’t tilt your head back.Reclining:When you can’t or don’t want to get up, recline and stretch out in your seat. Walking:Often walking is the best way to relieve low back and/ or leg pain that comes on after sitting too long or bending too much. Desk-Top Resting:This method is especially good if symptoms of low back pain have appeared from sitting too long at a table or desk and you can’t or don’t want to take the time to get up. Start out by pushing your chair back from the desk, then gently arch your lower back and stick your buttocks out. If possible, spread your legs wide apart with your knees bent. Rest your arms and head on the desk, allowing the spine to elongate forward, and relax for about a minute.Side Lying With Towel Roll:Lie on your side with the painful side up. Place a small, rolled up towel under your side in the hollow between your pelvis and ribs. Place your top arm up and over your head. You should feel as though you are lengthening the top side between your chest and pelvis.

Putting the Spring Back in Your Spine

Dr. Rajat Chauhan, Physiotherapist
Everything you need to unlearn about sitting down and leaning back in your chairAlmost half our lives are spent sitting. A poor sitting posture can put more strain on your spine than lifting heavy weights. It is, therefore, important to understand the right way to sit, especially if you are required to sit for long.Sitting for a long period can strain your neck and back, and increase the risk of intervertebral disc bulges. Our backbone, or the vertebral column, is made up of alternating bones and a soft jelly-like structure called discs. When they bulge, they can compress the spinal cord/nerve that they are supposed to protect.The spine is like a chassis for the whole body. If the spine is not held in a good posture, there will be too much pressure on the discs.Good posture is not about the spine being straight. The spine actually has curves—convex in the neck and low back but concave in the thoracic (upper-back) region. Too straight or too curved compromises the springiness of the spine, effectively risking too much pressure on low-back discs. Good posture would be one where the spine is held tall, maintaining the curves mentioned above, but just.While sitting does, in fact, compress the spine, sitting in a good posture reduces the compression. For that reason, the spine needs to be lengthened at all times.You need to reclaim your spine’s springiness and be light. When your spine is lengthened, your head will be well balanced on the top of your spine. This balancing is a dynamic act, not a forced static one. Your arms and legs move freely from a supporting back. It’s almost like trying to balance a cue on your fingertip. Initially, it’ll be a struggle and your “good posture” won’t last very long. There will be discomfort and pain too. But soon enough, it’ll become second nature to you.Sitting straight or completely tall is not correct either, the spine needs to be held at an approximate 5-degree slant.The spine needs to be very dynamic, not stiff at all times. If you let go of the spine, it helps hold your upper (arms) and lower limbs (legs) very comfortably. If you make the spine rigid, the arms and legs are held stiff as well. This adds to tension in the shoulders and lower back, which will then lead to neck and upper-back pain along with low-back pain.Everyone keeps talking about good posture, but it’s not sustainable if the muscles that are supposed to hold that good posture don’t have the right balance of strength and flexibility.There is first a need to correct that imperfection by doing exercises with the correct techniques under supervision. Easier said than done. I struggle with helping people with this one all the time because fitness trainers just don’t pay enough attention to this.Also, we all like to blame our tools, in this case our office chairs, for our incorrect posture without knowing how to use our bodies optimally. In the popular illustration showing our evolution from being a chimpanzee to a hunter to a farmer to a man sitting in front of the computer, the one big change is that we have finally lost contact with the ground. Most of us sit on chairs that have wheels all day long. I like to call them wheel-chairs as they make sure you’ll need one soon. Many of these chairs are also sold as ergonomically designed, which is often not the case.But the chairs alone are not to be blamed. It is how you sit on the chair that also affects your posture. Here are some tips that will train you to sit better, independently, without using the backrest at all.Look for a chair with a seat which is parallel or slightly leaning forward to the ground, such that your hips are either at the same level as the knees or very slightly higher. Your hips should never be lower than the knees as that forces you to sink in the chair and does not allow you to take control of your posture even if you want to.You should be sitting in the middle of the seat.Now think of an equilateral triangle, with your sitting bones forming one tip of the triangle. The base of both your feet form the other two tips of the triangle. The gap between your feet should be as much as the length of your thigh.The angles between your torso and thighs should be 90 degrees or slightly more.The angle beneath your knee joint should be 90 degrees, so that your feet are right under your respective knee joints.Sit tall like a puppet: Imagine there’s a string attached to the top of your head pulling you up. It is not really forcing you up, the imaginary string keeps you tall, but your head isn’t stiff and the shoulders are relaxed.Relax your neck and shoulders while you’re thinking of growing taller all the time.Imagine that the strings on your shoulders are cut so that your shoulders are not raised any more. Instead, they are relaxed and fall freely. Now just to test the freedom of your neck, move your head the way the Noddy dog in the car would, i.e., bend your skull backward and forward as if it’s on a pole. Keeping your back tall, imagine that pull of the string is at a 5-degree angle, such that you are tilting forward, without slouching, such that your centre of gravity lies between the equilateral triangle.You’ll be surprised to find that you can keep this position for a very long time. This will make your backrest redundant. It will also help you get rid of your expensive sofas and get back to sitting on Swiss balls.■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■CHAIR FACTSWhat to avoid in a chair and whyA chair with wheels doesn’t let you rest your feet flat on the ground. Even if it does, your chair is not stable, hence you are not really in control.Opt for: A chair without wheels, which is stable and sturdy. The good old benches in schools or straight-back dining chairs do a good job. The so-called ergonomic chairs make your chairs more mobile, when it is you who should be more mobile.The seat on a chair should not be slanting back. This will make your hips lower than your knees and force you to slouch.Opt for:The seat should be flat or just very slightly slanting forward. Your thighs need to be either parallel to the ground or very slightly slanting down.The length of the seat you sit on should not be too long, so that the backrest is too far away: No matter how important it is for you not to use the backrest all the time, once in a while we all want to rest our backs. If the backrest is too far away, it will again make you slouch.Opt for:The length of the seat should be such that you are able to shuffle your buttocks all the way back, so that the backrest then gives ample support to your back.The angle of the backrest should not be leaning too far back. Chairs with this kind of backrest are useless as they don’t encourage you to sit tall.Opt for:A chair with a slight lean, if at all. Good old dining chairs work very well.The backrest of a chair should not be too flexible, because your back will not get enough support. It will make you lean back even when you want to sit tall.Opt for:A chair with a backrest that is firm and does not give too much. This will give better support to your back.The chair should not be too high. If it is, you will not be able to let your feet rest flat on the ground. This will reduce your chances of sitting up tall. Also, if it happens to be too low, the angle at your knee joint will be too acute, and won’t provide enough support for your lower back. This will force you to slouch your back, no matter how much you want to sit tall.Opt for:The height of the chair should be such that your feet are flat on the ground and the angle at your knee joints is 90 degrees or slightly more. It will give you a better opportunity to sit tall.Rajat Chauhan is an ultra marathon runner and a doctor specializing in sports and exercise medicine and musculoskeletal medicine, and founder of Back 2 Fitness. He is also associate editor, British Journal of Sports Medicine.This piece is primarily based on the original work of F. M. Alexander (Alexander Technique), modified by Dr Wilfred Barlow, and introduced into London College of Osteopathic Medicine (LCOM) by Dr John Lester. Dr Chauhan was introduced to them in 2004 by Dr Roderic MacDonald, Principal, LCOM.