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Why We Must MOVE MORE and Sit Less To Achieve Great Health

Written by: Nick Jack
Category: 2014
on 19 June 2014
Hits: 11270

Technology has provided many great things for modern living that makes our lives easier, but one could argue it has almost gone too far and made life so easy and made us lazy. When you consider that physical inactivity contributes to over three million preventable deaths worldwide each year (that’s six per cent of all deaths) it is easy to see why we now regularly hear the saying "Sitting Has Become The New Smoking". Poor posture, chronic neck pain, and severe injuries like bulging discs are also linked to repetitive sitting and not to mention the impact this can have on your waistline too! In this article I will discuss in great detail what happens when you sit down too much and also how you can use some simple tricks and tips to prevent this danger. We also review your workstation set up and even how new technology can help inspire you to move more! Enjoy.

What happens to your body when you’re sitting down?

Sitting for too long apart from all the physical problems of creating tight hips, hamstrings, shoulders and developing neck and back pain sitting also plays havoc with your metabolism.

Sitting for too long slows down the body’s metabolism and the way the enzyme lipoprotein lipase breaks down our fat reserves. And as metabolism goes down your blood glucose levels and blood pressure go up! Which is not good news for your health. Small amounts of regular activity, even just standing and moving around throughout the day is enough to bring the increased levels back down. And those small amounts of activity add up – scientists have suggested that 30 minutes of light activity in two or three-minute bursts could be just as effective as a half-hour block of exercise. But without that activity, blood sugar levels and blood pressure keep creeping up, steadily damaging the inside of the arteries and raising the risk of diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

If you are wanting to lose weight and think that going to the gym for 30 minutes 2-3 times per week is enough and you spend the rest of your time sitting on your butt, you need to think again.

And it is not just our weight that is affected.

Sitting Ruins Your Posture

In addition to the problems of blood pressure, diabetes etc for most people, prolonged sitting will ruin your POSTURE and cause all or some of the following:

Tight hip flexors, hamstrings, calf muscles, tightness through the external hip rotator muscles, which can lead to restricted movement at the hip joint, reduced extension through the lower back, causing stiffness stiffness in the mid (thoracic) spine tight and hunched shoulders with weak lower shoulder muscles tight and weak muscles at the back of the shoulder ‘poked chin’ posture and muscle imbalances in the neck and upper shoulders The better the posture a person can maintain during the day, the less likely it is that the above areas will become problematic.

Watch the videos below to see what exercises, stretches and techniques we use for alleviating tight neck and shoulder stiffness.

The chance of developing headaches, trigger points in your shoulders that lead to constant neck pain from sitting for too long or poorly cannot be overstated. Great articles to read about neck pain and thoracic dysfunction are below.

Sitting Is Linked To Back Pain & Bulging Discs

Of all the injuries we see these days the bulging disc is by far the most common. This is a severely nasty injury that can even lead to partial paralysis so knowing how to avoid it is paramount to the health of your body. The link between sitting and this injury is very close as the spine is repeatedly flexed. Sustaining a slouching or forward bending of your spine leads to overstretching and weakness of the posterior fibro-cartilage (or annulus) of the spinal discs. Over time, this leads to poor disc integrity and displacement of the disc nucleus fluid posteriorly. This places your spinal joints and nerves under pain-causing pressure.

You can read more about bulging disc treatment and how to identify movement dysfunction in the articles below

Make Sure You Set Your Workstation Up Correctly

If you have a job that forces you to sit for a long time, and to be honest most of our clients are exactly like this. It is absolutely essential that you set your workstation up correctly in order to prevent many of the unwanted injury or chronic pain conditions created from poor posture. You can check out more information about workstation set up here and download a very easy to read PDF Document. I have included the main points along with a few of the pictures of set up here so you can get started straight away.

I highly recommend reading the book "Sitting On The Job" by Scott Dunkin as he gives some great insight and ideas as to how to create a healthy workplace.


Step 1:

  1. Adjust your chair so your wrists are level with the keyboard when typing.
  2. A footrest will be needed if your feet cannot touch the ground after adjusting your chair

Step 2:

  1. Adjust your back rest so that it is positioned in the curve of your lower back
  2. Check the angle of your back rest it should be 90 -95 degrees
  3. Check the angle of your seat it should be 90-95 degrees
  4. Check the space between your chair and backs of your knees it should be no more than 2 to 3 finger spaces.

Step 3:

  1. Position mouse to prevent overreaching. It should be as close to the keyboard as possible.
  2. Check the angle of your elbows when using the keyboard and mouse. They should be at 90 degrees andunder your shoulders.
  3. Check the angle of your wrists when using the keyboard and mouse. They should be straight, not bending in any direction.
  4. The letter section of the keyboard must be centered in front of your body

Step 4:

  1. The top of the monitor should be at approximately eye level.The monitor should be approximately one arm’s length away.
  2. Adjust for personal comfort. You should be able to read text without having to lean forwards.
  3. Your monitor should be positioned at right angles to light sources to prevent glare and avoid placing it directly in front or facing a window
  4. The monitor must be centered in front of your body

Step 5:

  1. Ensure there is enough space under your desk to move your legs freely and ensure there are no obstructions preventing you moving as close to your desk as possible.

There you have it, the complete Workstation Set Up.

The Office Workout

Below is a great video I filmed several years ago to show people how easy it is to complete a simple set of exercises and stretches in less than 5 minutes right in your office area. Completing this 1 or 2 times per day can help combat the danger of sitting to your body.

Using a Pedometer Or A Fitbit May Motivate You to Sit Less

In a new study, researchers gave pedometers to middle -aged adults, who wore them daily for 12 weeks while also receiving twice-weekly emails containing nutritional advice and exercise tips. This simple action led to a significant decrease
in sitting time, and a significant increase in physical activity, among the participants, who lost an average of 1kg each. The fact that the pedometer seemed to motivate its wearer to move around more instead of sitting is a huge win, and one that could lead to drastic health improvements.

As one of the study’s authors noted: "Even if somebody works out 30 minutes a day, the fact that they're sitting and not moving for long periods of time for the rest of the day is in and of itself detrimental to their health and well being, physiologically.”

In fact, according to a study in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, the more time you spend sitting down, the greater your risk of dying from all causes.

Many people now use technology such as the FITBIT wrist strap. This is a small device that clips on your clothes and tracks your steps. It can also monitor how much sleep you get at night. The Fitbit can easily sync up with your computer or smart phone so you can easily track your data and progress. I highly recommend trying one of these out as many people are kept accountable by their results, or more to the point, the lack of results!

I like to take periodic breaks every 10-15 minutes when working on the computer and do some simple hip and thoracic stretches before getting back into it. I found this to help prevent my neck, shoulders and hips from tightening up. Plus my energy is renewed and I tend to get more done. Get a pedometer or Fitbit and start taking more steps each day and you will be rewarded. If your goal is to lose weight, get fit, strengthen or tone up it is crucial you find a way to get incidental movement throughout the day. You must find a way to MOVE MORE & SIT LESS!

Build More Activity Into Your Day

Some other ways you can incorporate activity into your day are:

  • Walk or cycle, and leave the car at home.
  • For longer trips, walk or cycle part of the way.
  • Use the stairs instead of the lift or escalator, or at least walk up the escalator.
  • Get off the bus one stop early and walk the rest of the way.
  • Park further away from wherever you’re going and walk the rest of the way.


If you live in Melbourne and would like to know more about this article and any of our Personal Training programs click the image below to request a free postural and movement assessment.