Prolonged sitting is unnatural from an evolutionary prospective
Prolonged sitting has become common practice for most the world. It has not always been this way. In fact, it is a relatively recent occurrence in terms of civilisations history.
The tribesman certainly didn’t find himself sitting all day. When he rested, it was in the squat position! If he was sitting it was on a horse. He certainly didn’t find himself kicking back on luxury sofa’s using his t-shirt as a bowl whilst he indulged in popcorn.
So why did we decide prolonged sitting was a good thing? Sitting in chairs started out to symbolize status. It emphasized luxury and told everyone else in the room you were a person of importance. It gradually trickled down the classes, became increasingly popular, and eventually created the sitting culture of today.
Prolonged sitting is everywhere
In today’s modern culture it is rare to see someone not sitting. Okay maybe that’s an exaggeration, but if I was a gambling man and I were to walk into a room full people, my bet would be most of the people would be sitting.
In modern culture, we sit when we eat, when we transport ourselves from one place to another, when we are working, and when we are being entertained. This leaves little time for not sitting.
A recent (Study) found that only 20% of the jobs in the US require moderate physical activity, the remaining 80% being sedentary. This has also been linked to rise in obesity among Americans.
Another (Study) found the average American adult spends ten hours sitting every day. That doesn’t include time spent sleeping. This is a whole lot of time spent sitting and not enough time spent moving.
As I keep pointing out the human body is engineered for movement. It wasn’t designed for prolonged sitting. This damages the body and renders several of its many complex processes inefficient.
Health concerns of prolonged sitting
Sitting is awful for posture and prolonged sitting can cause muscle and joint pain.
The spines natural “S” curve alters when we are sitting. Without getting into too much science, sitting compresses the spine and forces it out of its natural alignment.
Prolonged sitting has also been linked to obesity, in addition to negative impacts on metabolic and cardiovascular health, as well as type two diabetes (Study, Study). Even the recommended thirty minutes of daily exercise may not be enough to undo the negative impacts of sitting (Study).
So, to overview prolonged sitting makes us fat, inflexible, less mobile, and causes disease. If you want a full breakdown of the impacts prolonged sitting has on health, illustrated with an awesome diagram (Click here).
Prolonged sitting is bad – What can we do about it?
So, sitting is not great for us. Modern jobs are demanding we spend more time sitting. Will people in there 20s have the backs of people in their 80s? Will people in the 80s evolve to walk around with their torso’s parallel to the ground?
Creating and maintaining Survival and Serenity has meant prolonged sitting has taken up a larger part of my day. I noticed my neck and lower back were getting tighter and just feeling more out of alignment than usual.
Rewilding humans is about questioning societal norms and dropping those that are no longer beneficial for our health. Prolonged sitting seems to be one of these. However, if you are in a job that requires you sit this becomes a little difficult so I had to get inventive.
I experimented with a few different things to try to combat the effects of prolonged sitting. I personally found the following to be beneficial:
Spend less time sitting
Spend less time sitting when work is finished – Perhaps it’s wise not to swap one seat for another. Instead of swapping your office chair fo the sofa do something that doesn’t involve sitting.
Work and rest in the squat position (some of the time at least) – This will help to undo some of the damages of sitting as it stretches the spine, hips and ankles in addition to activating several stabilizing muscles.
Alternating sitting with standing – If you have a desk job perhaps it would be a worthwhile investment to purchase a standing desk. By switching between sitting, standing (and squatting) our time spent sitting will drastically reduce and therefore it’s negative impacts will also reduce.
I find the best way to combat the effects prolonged sitting has on flexibility and muscle and joint pain, is stretching. Yoga asanas are particularly helpful and the following exercises are a great place to start:
These poses aid the body back into its natural alignment and increase flexibility in all the areas which prolonged sitting tightens.
Any form of movement will help to negate the effects of time spent sitting, however sitting for ten hours and moving for 30-60 minutes won’t offset the damages. The only way to combat the effects of prolonged sitting is to move more and sit less.
Calculate how much time you spent moving vs time spent sitting. I tend to apply the 60/40 rule as an absolute minimum. If you spend 6 hours sitting you want to spend at least 4 hours moving. Even low activity movement such as walking or moving around the house. In my opinion any less than this won’t be enough to offset the time spent sitting.
I have found spending less time sitting, moving more, and stretching has benefited me greatly. I no longer have any issues in my neck or back. Even if you are not feeling the detrimental effects of prolonged sitting now, it is likely you will feel them in the future.
To prevent this stretch like a lion, move like a monkey, and squat like human 🙂