Many of us spend much of our day sitting. From sitting at a desk hunched over a computer to lounging on the couch scrolling on our phones. It’s easy to spend over 8 hours a day sat down.
Recently, many more of us have been more sedentary than normal. The change in working patterns as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic also affected how much we’re moving around. In the beginning of 2021, 32% of Canadian employees were working remotely.
Remote working has many benefits, like cutting out lengthy commutes for people. However, it’s easy to forget the positive benefits that the act of moving from home to the office can have on our bodies. Instead, many of us are more sedentary. Sitting all day can actually be quite detrimental. We’re exploring more of why that is.
Why It's Detrimental To Sit All Day
Sitting properly and having correct posture is important for many reasons. It is a simple but very important way to keep the main intricate structures in the back and spine healthy.
It is much more than cosmetic. Good posture and back support are critical to reducing the incidence and levels of back pain and neck pain. Back support is especially important for patients who spend many hours sitting in an office chair or standing throughout the day.
What Problems Can Bad Posture Cause?
Bad posture can lead to long term back and neck issues. Unsupported posture can cause the loads on your spine to disperse incorrectly, weakening the tissues in your lower back. As a result, the intricate network of muscles, discs, and joints in your back tend to be pushed beyond their limit, causing you pain.
All of these can be major contributors to back and neck pain, as well as headaches, fatigue, and possibly even concerns with major organs and breathing. These stresses may be relieved once bad posture is corrected. Or, they may continue to accumulate, slowly weakening the affected area. In turn, this can lead to long term challenges.
Bad posture can have a big impact on our physical and mental health, causing issues including:
Spine Curvature – Over time, poor posture can cause the spine to misalign and form an ‘S’ shape. Whilst our spines are built to absorb shock, bad posture can slowly deteriorate this natural ability, putting bodies at risk for more serious injury in the future.
Back Pain – One of the most common side effects of poor posture is strain on the upper and lower back. Slouching forward can put pressure on the shoulder blades and cause you to flatten your back muscles. Not sitting up straight can cause pain in the tailbone after a long day sitting.
Neck Pain & Headaches – Poor posture puts pressure on your posterior muscles, which has a negative impact on your neck. Whether your shoulders are hunched forward or your head is aimed downward, the strain put on your neck by the tightness of these muscles can lead to tension headaches.
Poor Sleep – The effect of poor posture can lead to us having to toss and turn through the night to find a comfortable position to sleep, leading to hours of lost sleep.
Lack of Motivation – As poor posture causes us to feel pain and to be uncomfortable, it is likely to have a negative impact on your productivity and emotions.
What Can Cause Bad Posture?
Everyday actions and activities, done with bad posture, can lead to injury and pain.
These actions can include:
Slouching or sitting slumped on your office chair – this can cause your back, core, and abdominal muscles to become strained and painful, reducing their blood supply and slowly developing stiffness and weakness in the lower back.
Sitting unsupported – this can cause a small forward bend on the spine which over time, can place a load on the lower spinal discs, causing herniation.
Lifting heavy objects off the floor by bending your back or by incorrectly lifting can cause your lumbar disc to herniate. This can cause it to refer pain in the lower back and radiate pain into your leg through a nearby spinal nerve.
Lying down on your front while reading or working on a laptop can cause your lower back and hip to bend backwards, altering the dynamics of the lower spinal curve.
A lack of physical exercise can also cause more stress and pain to develop in your lower back.
Because people find themselves in several positions throughout the day (sitting, standing, bending, stooping, and lying down) it's important to learn how to attain and keep correct posture in each position for good back support, which will result in less back pain.
What is Good Posture?
When it comes to good posture, it is all about spine alignment. When you exhibit correct posture, every part of your body is in tune with each other, and everything is balanced and supported.
When you are standing, you should be able to draw a straight line from the earlobe through the shoulder, hip, knee and into the middle of the ankle. While poor posture on your spine can stress your muscles, proper posture releases this pressure and allows your muscles to be at ease.
How can you Improve Your Posture?
There are a number of ways that you can improve your posture. Here are 7 that can help.
1. Ergonomic Office Chairs
Office work can often result in poor posture and strain to the lower back. Many people sit at a desk chair for up to 8 hours a day. If you are sitting in a chair that is not properly fitted to your body or offers you proper lower back support, it can lead to back and neck issues. One strategy is to choose an ergonomic office chair that often provides better support than a regular chair and may be more comfortable.
2. Standing Desks
Standing desks stop you from hunching over your computer and sitting at chairs that don’t support you. Standing can help with better posture and allows more blood flow throughout the whole body.
3. Laptop Accessories
It’s important to have the right tools around us to make sure you are comfortable at your desk. Not using the touchpad on your laptop but having a separate keyboard and mouse can help with posture and reduce strain. Bringing the equipment to you allows you to sit up straighter, rather than to be hunched over.
4. Hold Phone at Eye Level for Texting
It’s common knowledge that you should make sure your laptop or computer screen is at eye level, but what about our phones? Rather than leaning down and hunching over your mobile phones, bring them up to eye level for texting or watching the screen. This will help ensure that your neck muscles aren’t being unnecessarily strained or put into an awkward position.
5. Take a Break
The spine is made for motion, and when sitting in any type of office chair (even an ergonomic office chair) for long periods of time, it is best to get up, stretch, and move around regularly throughout the day to recharge stiff muscles.
6. Sleep Safely
How you sleep plays a big part in your back health. The most common way that people injure their back or neck is during sleep! Sleeping on your back is the best position for your health whilst laying on your front, on your stomach, is the worst and can lead to numbness, tingling and aches. Investing in good mattresses and pillows can help you sleep more comfortably.
7. Practice Posture Exercises
Practicing posture exercises throughout the day can help us correct bad posture and maintain good posture. Helping turn these into habits by doing them at specific times of the day, helps us remember to do them leading to long term benefits.
It takes less effort to maintain correct posture than an incorrect posture. Changing from a habitual incorrect posture may take time and constant awareness. Try the exercises below to help improve your posture.
Shoulder blade squeeze. Sit up straight in a chair with your hands resting on your thighs. Keep your shoulders down and your chin level. Slowly draw your shoulders back and squeeze your shoulder blades together. Hold for a count of five; relax. Repeat three or four times.
Upper body stretch. Stand facing a corner with your arms raised, hands flat against the walls, elbows at shoulder height. Place one foot ahead of the other. Bending your forward knee, exhale as you lean your body toward the corner. Keep your back straight and your chest and head up. You should feel a nice stretch across your chest. Hold this position for 20-30 seconds. Relax.
Arm-across-chest stretch. Raise your right arm to shoulder level in front of you and bend the arm at the elbow, keeping the forearm parallel to the floor. Grasp the right elbow with your left hand and gently pull it across your chest so that you feel a stretch in the upper arm and shoulder on the right side. Hold for 20 seconds; relax both arms. Repeat to the other side. Repeat three times on each side.
Bad posture is a huge issue in this technology era. In the past, jobs and lifestyle meant that we were more active and moving around more in the day but now, we spend more of our time sitting down at a desk.
Whilst technology has made our lives easier, it has also come with many problems and bad posture is certainly one of them. It is important to be conscious of bad posture – slouching or hunching, and ensuring we form healthy habits that can help promote and maintain good posture, leading to less physical challenges later in life.