April 18, 2017

Is your desk job having an impact on your posture?

Jamie Fullerton
,
Head Physiotherapist
Your body adapts to the position that you assume for most of the day.

So, if you sit and allow your back to round forward (flexion) or arch backwards (overextension), your tissues and joints will form a somewhat cast around that posture, making it difficult for you to get into better positions later.

And what most people fail to realise is that the position or positions we assume for most of the day also impact the ways we move throughout the rest of the day. And the quality of our movement (or lack thereof) can affect the quality of our lives. But at what point in life do innocuous environmental loads start to creep in and compromise mechanics? In short answer is that the adaptation starts showing up around 5 or 6 years old.

It would be so much easier if exercise could undo the damage caused by sitting. We could simply pull a desk worker into the gym and teach them how to properly perform a range of movements and in effect, they would slowly make improvements without having to alter their actions outside of the gym. We wouldn’t have to tell them that they should also pay attention to their body the other 23 hours of the day. But the cold, hard truth is that exercise will not reverse the potentially harmful and irrefutable effects that too much sitting has on our bodies.

This shouldn’t come as too big of a surprise. We’ve known about the benefits of exercise for a long time, and we’ve also known that it’s not a cure for poor lifestyle choices. We wouldn’t consider someone who consumes nothing but take-aways and fizzy drinks healthy, even if they regularly make it to the gym. And we wouldn’t consider someone healthy if he drinks alcohol seven days a week, even though they somehow muster the strength to go for a run every morning. Exercise might help the body rid itself of some empty calories or to become stronger, but most people are informed enough to realise that it’s not going to magically overcome an unhealthy lifestyle and an excuse to not look after our bodies 24/7.

For some reason, people don’t seem to apply the same logic to the long-term effects of sitting down all day. Many people think that they can shake off eight or more hours of sitting with a hard workout. But this makes about as much sense as thinking that you can walk off a broken foot. When you sit for prolonged periods, your body is forced into compromised positions, which leads to compromised function. And when you sit all day, you simply don’t move enough. Working out will certainly make you healthier overall, but it’s not a time machine that can undo the detrimental choices that you make. Joining a gym and attending fitness classes will of course help, but overall we have to ensure that our bodies are getting care and consideration throughout the entirety of the day as well.

Preventing and solving the problems associated with too much sitting is, on the surface, very simple. We need to increase our continuous activity, improve the quality of our movement, and learn how to perform basic maintenance on our bodies. That is exactly what we aim to teach you. It doesn’t matter if you’re hopelessly tied to a chair for 10 hours a day, in chronic pain, or severely overweight. With consistent, conscious effort and a little bit of willpower, you can increase your productivity, lose weight and treat, avoid, and even eliminate pain. All you have to do is follow three simple guidelines:

1. Reduce optional sitting in your life. Less time in front of the TV, more time moving about!

2. For every 30 minutes that you are desk-bound, move for at least 2 minutes. Some light stretches or even a short walk will do you the world of good and even increase your productivity.

3. Prioritise position and mechanics whenever you can - something small like making a conscious effort to sit up straight with both feet on the ground when at your desk can make a huge difference!

Are you struggling with an injury or pain that has been troubling you for too long?
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