Tips for Healthier Sitting
“Sitting is the new smoking.” I'm sure you've heard this phase at least once in the recent past. Our modern culture is inundated with activities best done in this immobile position. It is taking years off our lives and contributing to a slew of health problems like low back pain and obesity.
Many of these issues are connected to the ill effects this position has on our pelvic floors. Sitting for prolonged periods destabilizes the sacroiliac joint, exacerbates poor postural habits, and puts excessive pressure on our core muscles. Any single or combination of these factors can negatively impact circulation and nerve conduction leading to pain and dysfunction.
The best way to avoid these complications is the most obvious: sit less! Five to 15 minutes of movement after every 45 minutes of continuous sitting is recommended. But while the effort should be made, it is admittedly not always practical. And sitting for ¾ of an hour is still a long time on your butt. Use the following modifications to make the time you must spend seated a little healthier.
1) Use Lumbar Support
This tip had been around for ages. Unfortunately, the method is often wrong. Most people place the supporting item level with their hips at the most accentuated part of their lumbar curve. If you are one of those people, you've probably noticed that you end up slouched as if there were no support at all. Instead position your rolled towel, foam roller, pillow, or whatever you are using as your anchor at the top of your lumbar, right around the level of your T12 vertebra - it's right where your elbows are when been 90 degrees. This will promote a more neutral spinal alignment with less conscious effort on your part optimizing neve communication.
2) Sit Cross-Legged
Sitting with your knees together or crossed over one another pulls the ischial tuberosities (“sit bones”) apart. This posture eccentrically contract your pelvic floor. What this means is these muscles are fighting against full stretch, trying to shorten while being lengthened. Over time your pelvic floor will weaken increasing your potential for incontinence, prolapse, sexual dysfunction, and other pelvic ailments. “Normal” sitting also fosters sacral sitting, the rounding of your lumbar spine so your coccyx tucks forward, leading to low back pain.
Sitting cross-legged or “Indian style” brings the ischial tuberosities closer and encourages lumbar curve, supporting posture and the pelvic floor instead of stressing them. Sitting in a wide legged stance will also have similar benefits in the event clothing or chair arms prohibit full leg cross.
3) Get a Ball Chair
Utilizing an exercise ball or ball chair over a traditional chair has all of the benefits of sitting cross-legged as it puts you in a wide leg sitting position for balance while also promoting SI joint stability and giving your circulation a (very) small boost.
How? The added element of movement. To remain on a rounded surface, your hips must continually shift through multiple planes. It is a subtle movement that will not have anywhere near the effects of being out of the chair, but enough to work the sacroiliac ligaments and create an environment more diverse than stagnant.
Which of these is your favorite? Do you have any other good tips to make sitting healthier? Let me know in the comments!