Why Sitting is the New Smoking

Back in school you were always warned about the dangers of smoking—how it could cause lung cancer and a hundred other issues.

But what they failed to mention back then is how sitting for long periods of time can be just as dangerous.

Sound a little extreme?  Let us explain:

The New York Times reports that 80% of the jobs in the workforce today are sedentary or require only light activity.  And there doesn’t seem to be a change in that trend anytime soon considering the ever-growing reliance on technology in the office (and everywhere else.)

If you fall into that lucky (or maybe unlucky) 80%, then that’s at least 8 to 9 hours of your workday spent sitting down.  Add to that the average 2-3 hours that most of us spend each evening trying to unwind before bed with a little TV and that makes at least 10-12 hours of your waking day spent in a seated position.

So what kinds of detrimental effects does all of this sitting have?  The Annals of Internal Medicine and American Heart Association cite:

 -Increased risk of Cardiovascular Disease

-Increased risk of Diabetes

-Higher occurring rate of cancer and cancer-related death

But the effects of such a sedentary lifestyle reach much farther than chronic diseases alone.

Do you find yourself struggling with back or shoulder pain nearly every day?

Those aches and pains you feel all boil down to a lack of activity that weakens and tightens your muscles.

Think of it like a chain reaction.

Prolonged bouts of sitting can cause tightness in your muscles, particularly in the groups surrounding the hips.  And if you’re sitting most of your day, then it’s almost a given that your muscles are growing weaker rather than stronger.

When those muscles grow tight and weak you run a much higher risk for pain and injury.


What causes Anterior Pelvic Tilt?

 Anterior tilt is affected by four major components:

-Tight Hip Flexors/Quads

-Tight Lower Back muscles

-Weak Abdominals

-Weak Glutes/Hamstrings

The amount of sitting we do on a day-to-day basis plays a huge part in the tightness and weakness of these muscles.  When you sit at a computer for long periods of time, you tend to sit forward in your chair, which rocks your pelvis forward into APT.

Sitting like this for too long teaches your muscles to adapt to that type of incorrect posture and puts extra pressure on the lower back, triggering pain.

How Sitting can cause APT: 

  • Your Glutes and Hamstrings start to weaken after prolonged bouts of sitting (You can blame your 8-hour workday for that one)
  • Sitting for so long also shortens your hip flexors, essentially forcing them into that tight position indefinitely.
  • When you’re sitting at a computer (or driving…or playing on your phone) it’s hard to do anything but slouch. Aside from hurting your upper back, slouching prevents your abdominals from engaging, making them weaker as time goes along.
  • Side note: Even your sleeping position can increase your Anterior Pelvic Tilt.  If you’re the type that sleeps all curled up on your side, you’re once again forcing your hip flexors into that shortened position.  That’s nearly 16 hours (possibly more) of your day spent in a “sitting position.”



That, in combination with the fact that most of us have trouble getting in as much exercise as we’d like, is a perfect storm for APT.  (For more info about Anterior Pelvic Tilt click here!)

And if sitting for too long can be a simple cause of back pain, then it's reasonable to assume that it could be the cause of some of your other pains as well.

The best plan of action is to get more active!

Find ways to break up those bouts of sitting at the office and make sure you get at least 30 minutes of exercise each day.

Our bodies were made for movement--and that is exactly what it will take to stay healthy and avoid those diseases that sitting can invite.  Move around, do exercises to reverse the weaknesses that you have developed, and see how things change for you!

What will you do today to stay on your feet?


Kelly Crites

Admin for our Cape studio and the face behind our blogs, Kelly is a year into her new, healthier lifestyle and ready to share the tips and tricks she learns along the way. Current Goal: Making it through an entire Tough Mudder.

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