Home Health From the truth about slouching to how to cross your legs, new ways of sitting backed by science so you don’t shorten your life expectancy

From the truth about slouching to how to cross your legs, new ways of sitting backed by science so you don’t shorten your life expectancy

0 comment
A study published in 2017 in the Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry found that good posture improved mood in people with mild to moderate depression.

Don’t smoke, drink or overeat – these are health mantras that most of us are familiar with. And more recently there is another one to add to this list: not sitting still for too long.

This advice reflects a growing understanding that sitting is actually bad for our health; In fact, in 2014, Dr James Levine, professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic in the US, coined the phrase “sitting is the new smoking” to reflect the emerging trend. Evidence linking a sedentary lifestyle to poor health.

Some studies suggest that people who spend six to eight hours sitting each day have a 20 percent increased risk of premature death from any cause.

But why would sitting cause health problems? This is thought to be because sitting for long periods puts the body on “standby”: metabolism slows, circulation is restricted by folded joints, and the ability to process blood sugar is compromised (the Inactive muscles do not absorb as much sugar into the blood). as active muscles).

A study published in 2017 in the Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry found that good posture improved mood in people with mild to moderate depression.

This leads to an increased risk of heart problems, obesity and type 2 diabetes.

Being sedentary for too long can also trigger mechanical problems, causing tension and pain in the muscles of the back, neck and shoulders.

Meanwhile, the way we sit can have an impact: Slouching excessively in a chair, especially after a meal, can put pressure on the abdomen and lead to heartburn as stomach acid returns to the esophagus.

Sitting posture might even affect your mood: A study published in 2017 in the Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry found that good posture improved mood in people with mild to moderate depression.

But as London-based physiotherapist Sammy Margo explains, perhaps “the worst mistake” you can make is staying in the same position for long periods. His advice is to set an alarm on your phone to go off every 30 minutes as a reminder to get up and move.

So what else can you do if you have no choice but to spend long hours on your stomach? Here are the latest science-backed rules to minimize any damage.

You don’t have to sit very upright.

Contrary to what you might have been told, the best sitting posture is not standing too straight with your shoulders back. A 2021 study in the journal Musculoskeletal Science and Practice found no evidence to suggest that sitting upright prevents or relieves back pain.

In this study, measurements were taken of 100 people sitting “normally” and then sitting more upright, which was previously believed to be optimal. The researchers noted that the upright position actually artificially straightens the natural curves of the spine, potentially putting stress on the body that it would be less likely to experience in a more natural, relaxed sitting position.

This study confirmed previous findings by the same researchers, published in the Journal of Orthopedic & Sports Physical Therapy in 2019, which established that “correct” posture can look different for different people.

“There is no ‘safe’ way to sit when it comes to back pain,” confirms Dr Kieran O’Sullivan, senior lecturer in physiotherapy at the University of Limerick.

“If you feel good, don’t worry about your sitting posture,” he says, “and if you have pain, see if changing your posture helps relieve it; but don’t assume that the solution is always to sit upright.”

Therefore, some mild slouching is acceptable as long as it does not cause pain or discomfort.

Keep your feet off the couch

At the end of a long day, you may want to collapse on the couch with your legs bent or straight, but Sammy Margo warns that these positions put pressure on your lower back, especially since it’s so tempting to stay in this position for hours. . at once.

“It’s not good to allow your back to slump into a curved C shape for long periods of time,” he says; Sitting comfortably is one thing, but slouching for too long can put pressure on the discs that cushion the vertebrae in your spine and force your neck and shoulders to work to keep your head from falling forward.

Over time, slouching on the couch can weaken your back and abdominal muscles, which in turn can cause pain, says Sammy Margo. Instead, physical therapists recommend sitting in front of the TV with your feet flat on the floor.

“If your couch is deep, place cushions on your lower back to keep you upright and preserve the natural curves of your spine, and if you want to put your feet up, use a stool lower than the height of the couch,” she says. . Sammy Margo.

Cross your ankles, not your knees

Research shows that crossing your legs rotates your pelvis, and sitting this way routinely can cause lower back pain because it stretches your gluteal muscles.

A study published in 2020 in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health found that sitting cross-legged also causes the trunk to slouch more.

A 2018 study in the journal Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism found that crossed legs can reduce the speed at which blood moves through blood vessels in the legs, which could increase the risk of blood clots.

Crossing your legs can also lead to spinal and shoulder misalignment and ultimately back pain. If you habitually cross your legs, Sammy Margo suggests frequently changing which leg you cross (“it’s a great way to generate movement during sitting”) or crossing your ankles, which doesn’t have the same negative impact on your spine. or blood flow.

Choose the ‘carver chair’

If you find yourself working at the kitchen or dining room table, Sammy Margo suggests using a ‘carving chair’ with arms, so you can rest your elbows at 90 degrees to your body. “Most dining room chairs don’t have armrests, which means we raise our shoulders to rest on the table, which puts strain on our shoulder and back muscles,” he says.

If your only option is a dining chair, use cushions to raise your seating position to the point where your arms can be at right angles when resting on the table and, if necessary, place a thick book under your feet to help distribute your body. weight evenly.

Lower the screen (if you can’t touch type)

One of the long-established rules in desktop ergonomics is to place the computer screen at eye level to minimize neck strain.

However, Sammy Margo says this only applies to competent typists who can use the keyboard without taking their eyes off the screen. Anyone who uses one or two fingers on each hand to type employs what physical therapists call a “hunt-and-peck” method, which requires frequent changes in eye level while checking the keyboard and screen.

“If you can’t type, position the screen slightly below eye level to minimize head movement when looking up and down,” he recommends.

Get rid of that bouncing Swiss ball

The fad of sitting on a big, bouncy Swiss ball to work your core muscles and inject movement (no matter how small) into your day seems to have passed. A 2006 study by the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, found that sitting on these ball “chairs” increased discomfort because the muscles had to work too hard to stabilize the body.

Physiotherapists now recommend using an adjustable chair; Your knees should be bent at 90 degrees and lower than your hips, with your feet flat on the floor and your back fully supported.

Use an ironing board as a standing desk

The other option is to use an adjustable bar stool when working at the kitchen counter. Sammy Margo explains: “Using a bar stool means your hips are higher than your knees, which helps relieve pressure on your lower back.”

“But this is only useful if you work at a kitchen island with space that allows you to tuck your knees under it.”

He adds that, depending on your height, a kitchen counter may be the perfect standing desk (“raise the laptop slightly on a thick cutting board if necessary”), but the ironing board may be even better, since that “it’s a perfect standing desk.” “You can set the height that suits you best.”

Are your hips lower than your knees in the car?

To prevent back pain caused by sitting for long periods in a low driver’s seat with your knees higher than your hips (which strains the muscles in the front of your thighs, pulling on your pelvis), physical therapist Sammy Margo suggests raising the car seat. He use a cushion if necessary.

He also recommends tilting the seat angle down in the front so that your knees are lower than your hips, while ensuring your legs are fully supported along the seat cushion.

“Adjusting the seat to keep the hips higher than the knees without compromising other ergonomic or safety factors can make long trips less taxing on the body,” he says. “Keeping your hips higher than your knees can result in a more natural curvature of the spine, supporting the lower back.”

And as with all sitting tips: take breaks to get out of the car seat and change positions during the trip.

“Any posture, no matter how good, can cause discomfort if maintained for too long,” warns Sammy Margo.

You may also like