There were some pretty sensational headlines a few years ago claiming ‘sitting is the new smoking‘. These articles talk about research that links sitting with an increased risk for cancer, heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
The solution, offered at that time, was to get a standing desk. Even better than that, get a treadmill desk. Just standing isn’t a whole lot different than just sitting.
So, what is the deal with sitting and standing?
It isn’t an issue that you sit or stand. The issue is HOW MUCH and HOW OFTEN you are sitting and standing. When we assume positions over and over again, as we do when we sit, our muscles adjust to being a particular length. That length will limit your joint’s range of motion. Those limits create small changes that show up as aches and pains. Those aches and pains lay the foundation of much bigger issues down the line – osteoarthritis, pelvic floor problems, foot neuropathy and on and on and on.
When we sit, there are pressures put on parts of the body (the pelvis in particular when sitting) that create unhappy circumstances of rolling back onto your sacrum (think about slumping into your super comfy couch, or sitting in the bucket seats in your car, or just being so super bored in your latest department meeting) – we aren’t building bone in the hip joint, we are causing changes in the tissues of our glutes (hello, wide, flat butts), creating pelvic floor problems, and without glute strength, we’re over recruiting our abdominals to stabilize the spine.
When we stand we aren’t really using the body, we’re just staying in a relatively fixed position – I well remember my parents starting up their school year of teaching and the pain they remarked on in their body in the first few weeks as they went back to standing for extended periods of the day. Treadmill desks probably deserve their own post. There are benefits that will come from using a treadmill desk, but the mechanics of walking on a treadmill aren’t optimal for the body, so if we are really looking to make a difference in the body, walking on a treadmill won’t do it.
The hard reality is we aren’t meant to be still anywhere near as much as we are in our modern lives. We are built to move. There is no right way to sit, or stand, but there are better ways to sit and stand. Way that have us sitting and standing in as many different configurations as we can.
I do recognize that sitting is a part of modern life so in my next post we’ll talk about how to make shifts in your sitting habits that will bring positive changes to your body.