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by Alison McGinnis, PT, DPT, FAFS

Posted in Blog.

May 19th, 2020

How To Combat Sitting Disease

There’s another epidemic sweeping America right now: Sitting Disease.

With the invention of the computer, the internet and the extension of the workday/week, our society has switched to a more sedentary work environment where minimal-to-no physical activity occurs for 8-12 hours a day. The average American sits for at least 60% of his or her day — and this percentage only increases now that many of us are stuck at home with shelter in place orders keeping us inside.

Researchers have linked periods of prolonged sitting with elevated risks of obesity, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer and death. It has also shown that even if you get the recommended guidelines for exercise (30 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity, five days a week), you are still at a higher risk of disease compared to those who stand and move throughout the day.

Some research has even suggested that people who exercise intensely (marathoners/triathletes) are more likely to be sedentary when they are not exercising because they assume their training protects them from the harmful effects of sitting. False!

So what can you do to combat your risk for sitting disease?

The main goal is to reduce sitting time and increase “non-exercise” physical activity throughout the day. The best way to do this is to create reasons to get up from your desk or couch. Try these simple tactics:

  • Stand up to talk on the phone
  • Create a standing desk using boxes or books
  • Sit on the floor to do work or watch tv
  • Set an alarm throughout the day and do laps of your apartment or walk around the block
  • If you’re staying inside, take jumping jack breaks and do sets of 10 every hour

Another way to incorporate more movement into your day is to move while still sitting at your desk. Try these exercises:

Arm Reach Matrix:

(1) Alternate reaching one arm up and extending back, then switch arms.

(2) Alternate reaching one arm up and over your head to the opposite side, then switch arms.

(3) Alternate reaching one arm out in front of you and rotate towards the opposite shoulder, then switch arms.

(4) Alternate reaching your right arm out to the right side, then reach your left arm out to the left side.

Thoracic Spine Matrix:

Put your hands behind your head with elbows out to the side. Squeeze elbows down and in towards each other as you flex forward and look down, then lift elbows up and out as you look up (think butterfly wings). Next, with elbows out drive one up towards the ceiling while you reach the other one down towards your hip, then switch. Lastly, with elbows out rotate one forward and the other backwards, twisting your spine, then switch and rotate to the other side. Perform 10x.

Cervical Spine Matrix:

Move head up/down, bring ear down to each shoulder, look over each shoulder. Perform 10x.

Butt Walks/Wiggles:

Without using your arms, start at the back of your chair and walk your butt forward by lifting one hip at a time to move to the front of your chair then walk your hips back (don’t fall off!). You can also just wiggle your hips up and down in place.

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