It’s time to sit in our favorite vessel that tells our body to rest for a brief moment. Schoolwork, emails, office phone calls, texts at lunch or a ride in our cars all require seats, simplifying our everyday lives. Chairs, benches and stools have become an integral part of our lives so we can eat, chat over a meal at lunch, or perform that favorite four-letter word we have a love-hate relationship with: work.

The invention of the chair demonstrates the innovation of our ancestors when devising methods to give humans brief bouts of rest after a laborious day. Our paleolithic relatives built huts, ran from woolly mammoths and harvested food.

They had long days of work on their feet and an abundance of stress hormones coursing through their veins while guessing when the next sabertooth tiger attack would arise. One could imagine a chair would be far superior for a 15-minute break.

Fast forward to our current era. We don’t work in the rock quarries where Fred Flintstone made a living. Instead, a high percentage of the population invests in their favorite ergonomically sound desk chair and rests their back and hip in this comfortable contraption.

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Sure, we can rest our bodies and be productive while sitting and working. However, we enter into threats of abusing the capabilities of our seats. Similar to indulging in too many sweets, wolfing down too many burgers, or having that extra glass of wine at the end of the day, too much of a good thing can be detrimental to our health. We introduce a flood of problems if we sit too much.







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Prolonged periods of sitting cause stiff muscles, joints and ligaments. Additionally, inactivity while sitting imposes stress on our cardiovascular system. Our heart doesn’t need to pump as much blood to the working muscles and organs during low physical activity. As a result, significant joints such as the neck, shoulders, spine and hips become prime targets for harmful by-products of inactivity. Six to eight hours a day of sitting works out to be 30 to 40 hours per week, and eventually to 160 hours per month. Over time, that’s a lot of sitting.

A simple and effective solution is to perform exercises while we’re sitting. Completing just one set of 10 repetitions of a few injury prevention exercises on days involving long bouts of sitting significantly reverses the effects of inactivity.

Here are a few exercises that reduce pain, keep joints healthy, and avoid the likelihood of developing underuse injuries from sitting too long:

1. Stand up: Nothing fancy here. Make sure to stand up after a long phone call or after a freshly typed 800-word email. The simple act of frequently standing from sitting reverses our body’s shape while seated.

Remember, sitting isn’t bad, it’s the amount of time we sit in the same position that can be harmful. Once our body remains in one shape where our hips and knees maintain an isometric bend, we develop stiffness and introduce the possibility of atrophy in our muscles surrounding inactive joints.

2. Shoulder retraction: This is a fancy term for pulling the shoulders backward. We hunch forward, producing a figure akin to an angry cat hissing at a dog that has come close to them when typing and performing mouse work at the computer desk.

We’re humans, not cats. So, let’s not look like a quadruped mammal possessing one of the most flexible bodies in the animal kingdom. Our shoulder blades serve the critically important purpose of supporting our thoracic spine.

To perform the shoulder retraction exercise: Sit upright with your armpits lined up over your thighs. Glide your shoulders back and down your rib cage until a slight muscular sensation is experienced in the musculature surrounding your shoulder blades.

Relax, then repeat this motion for a total of 10 repetitions. By strengthening the shoulder blade muscles, we can reinforce the sections of the spine, including the neck and rib cage area. Perform one set of 10 repetitions.

3. Posterior pelvic tilt: The lumbopelvic hip complex is a nerdy-exercise physiologist term describing the section connecting the lower back to the top of the thighs. This is public enemy number one when sitting for too long.

Prolonged hours of stacking the lumbar spine over the sacrum can put excessive force on the fifth lumbar and first sacral vertebrae. Additionally, the gluteal and abdominal muscles become inactive, failing to support the spine’s stability.

To perform a posterior pelvic tilt: Sit upright and roll the crests of your hips toward your ribs. You should feel muscular engagement in your abdominals and glutes. Perform one set of 10 repetitions.

Understanding the threat of sitting too long is essential for preserving our body and functionality as humans. Take a little time to stand up and move around after a long time in a chair. You’ll likely be happier, have less pain, and be more productive.

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Sean McCawley, the founder and owner of Napa Tenacious Fitness in Napa,  welcomes questions and comments. Reach him at 707-287-2727, [email protected] , or visit the website napatenaciousfitness.com.