Sitting is the New Smoking


There is a saying going around, “Sitting is the New Smoking.”  One might think that this statement is over-exaggerating the fact that sitting for extended periods is bad for us, as we all know, but the doctor who makes this statement is dead serious.  But really, how bad is it for us?  Dr. James Levine, who is possibly the first to coin the phrase, is a professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic and a world-renowned leader in obesity research.  In his new book, titled “Get Up,” Levine claims that we lose two-hours of our life for every hour we sit.  These prolonged periods of inactivity increase our risk for obesity, heart disease, diabetes, colon cancer, muscular and back issues, deep vein thrombosis, weak bones, depression, and even dementia.  It is estimated that the United States loses over 1-billion dollars in sick pay due to back, neck and muscular issues related to sitting.

At AST we treat these muscular issues on a daily basis.  Sitting increases the downward pressure on your spine up to five times when compared to standing, thus leading to increased disc pressure and low back pain.  Not only does it affect the back and neck, but sitting generally causes imbalances through the shoulder muscles as well, leading to rotator cuff syndrome.

The health hazards of sitting

It’s no secret that there is a general consensus of opinion out there that CrossFit is considered dangerous due to the prevalence of back and shoulder injury. With the “CrossFit” style workouts gaining popularity throughout the general population, we’ve seen our fair share of CrossFit athletes in the office with one common theme… SITTING.  CrossFit, you see, can’t always be at fault. CrossFit alone is not dangerous if you’re body is conditioned for it, however, few of us are.  If you take a step back and look, the danger might just be what you do for 6-9hrs of your day when you’re not working out. Unless you have a job that keeps you moving, most of your time is likely spent sitting. That would make you an “active couch potato” – a term coined by Australian researcher Genevieve Healy, Ph.D., of the University of Queensland. This term describes exercisers who sit most of their day. If they aren’t careful, she says, active couch potatoes face the same health risks as their completely inactive counterparts.

The majority of our patients with shoulder issues, young and old, athlete or not, ninety percent of them have postural imbalances. Many times these postural issues are due to sitting for extended hours. The same can be said for those who come in with back pain.  These common issues from sitting lead to the imbalances in the musculoskeletal system, which predispose the individual to injury.

The World Health Organization recommends an adult should do at least 150-minutes of moderate exercise a week, that’s 30min on at least 5 days, to gain the benefits from regular exercise. To some of us, that may seem like a lot. Scientists have suggested that 30-minutes of light activity in 2-3 minute bursts could be just as effective as a half-hr block of exercise. For those of you struggling to find 30-minutes during the day for exercise, try the three-minute approach multiple times at the office.

Dr. Eric Goodman out in California has a great book and website talking about Foundation Training.  Here’s a link to the free training video. I recommend learning the moves at home so you don’t have to use the video every time. Until then, use the video and cues to get into the proper position. You can repeat the first two moves 3-4 times (arm down/arms up), holding each for 20-seconds. Check out their website for other helpful videos as well.

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About the Author

Dr. Tommer Arbuckle received his doctorate from Palmer College of Chiropractic West in San Jose, CA, and continued his post-graduate education to become a Certified Chiropractic Sports Physician. Dr. Arbuckle strives to maintain integrity, passion, and commitment with each patient he works with, allowing them to achieve their goals of optimal performance; he has committed himself to maintain a standard of care that utilizes the most up-to-date and effective techniques.