The next installment in the Sitting is a Disease series looks a little further into the detrimental effects of sitting for extended periods of time without a break.
When you sit, the ideal is to have your abdominals about 20% engaged in order to hold good, healthy posture. How long do you think you can you maintain that 20% before muscle fatigue sets in? I’m guessing not an hour, let alone eight!
So at some point fatigue sets in, the abdominals switch off and we slump or slouch. This causes the shoulders to roll in and the back starts to hunch a little between the shoulder blades. When this happens over time, all the muscles in the front of the chest and shoulders get shorter, exacerbating the problem. As the muscles in the front of the chest shorten and it becomes harder for us to undo this posture at the end of the day, we start to become that shape all the time. Who wants to stay in that shape all the time? It doesn’t look great, and definitely doesn’t feel great.
So it is extremely important to keep those muscles at their functional length. There are numerous benefits to keep the chest and shoulders open. Breathing is deeper and more beneficial, the lungs have space to really open up when the chest is open. Since breathing is kind of important to us, it makes sense that we benefit from utilising more of our lung capacity.
We can release tightness from the back of the body by staying open through the front. The hunching pattern causes the muscles in our back to tighten in order to stop us from completely collapsing forward. This creates tension, which can lead to fatigue, compensatory patterns, headaches and back pain. Basically, when one part of the body is out of alignment guaranteed the rest is going to be messed up trying to compensate!
Also psychologically we are more confident if we can sit or stand up straight, chest open and shoulders back. It gives us a more commanding presence and it is easier to feel positive in this body pattern.
So onto the shoulders we go. It’s a simple one. You can even do it at your desk if you must. Remember the rule of four minutes of movement for every 30 minutes of sitting.
Sit on the very edge of your seat and reach the hands back to grab onto the back of your chair. Grab as high as your shoulders will allow and lean forward, not down. Hold this for at least a minute. Hopefully it feels so good you will hold it longer! Do this everyday, often. Most of us understand the benefits of stretching after a strenuous workout so think of these postures like that, a stretch out for the body after the strain of sitting for too long.
As always, feel free to get in touch through www.aloka.com.au if you have any questions.