How many of us are bothered with back pain, especially when we sit down for a long time? Lower back pain is inevitable if your body posture is not ideal while sitting down for long periods. There is an abundance of published evidence pointing to the detrimental effects of sitting with a slouched posture, as well as staying in one position for long periods of time.
A study in the European Spine Journal (Liss 2007) showed that while prolonged sitting is bad, prolonged sitting in an awkward posture is even worse for the back. We have a tendency to adopt fixed and awkward postures when we drive a car, for example, with driving not only giving us back pain, but it also increases the risk of gaining excessive weight and developing heart problems.
So is prolonged sitting is bad for us? In most cases it looks like it. While sitting avoidance may be fairly easy to achieve when deciding whether to walk to the corner shop versus driving there, (walking wins!) it’s less easy to avoid sitting when our jobs are desk-based. So how can we avoid spinal problems which result from pro-longed sitting?
For a start, let’s look at the commute to work.
If we can catch a bus instead of driving, we are more likely to walk to a bus stop and then walk to our destination when we get off a bus – this is called “active travel” instead of passive driving. Catching a bus is also good for the environment by reducing our collective carbon footprint.
But, how about the rest of us who can’t avoid sitting down for long periods of time? A team of researchers from Japan and Thailand recruited 74 volunteers aged between 18 and 25 years old and split them into two seated groups. One group sat and enjoyed a two hour movie while the other group watched the same film but repeated an exercise regime every 20 minutes. The people who exercised while sitting in (“dynamic sitting”) had significantly more flexible lower backs com-pared with the groups that stayed still.
So, the way to dynamically sit is as follows:
Step 1 – Set a timer to alert you every 20 minutes for your active sitting session
Step 2 – Extend your lower back until you can feel a slight stretching in that area
Step 3 – Hold the back extension pose for about fifteen seconds
Step 4 – Gently draw in the abdomen to return to the neutral sitting position over 15 seconds
Step 5 – Repeat six times
In between the active sitting sessions, focus on sitting upright as tall as possible and facing downwards (see my previous article “text neck” to read why).