The dangers of sitting and how to counter them

Angela Zhang. 10/05/2020

One of the most prevalent effects of long-term sitting is back pain. (Thinkstock)

One of the most defining differences about life during this pandemic is that for everyone, working or learning from home nowadays entails sitting in place, eyes glued to a computer screen for hours on end. All this sitting takes a significant toll on your body, and it’s imperative that everyone who spends extensive hours seated realizes this.

Taking a seated position at first may not seem particularly harmful to your body. But once you don’t budge from it for hours upon hours, day after day, it can easily become an alarming issue. For one, you could develop muscle atrophy, where your lower-body muscles will weaken over time and you could end up not being able to balance or even stand properly. Research shows that young people could lose a third of their muscle strength in just two weeks of inactivity, while older people could lose a fourth of their strength and likely suffer worse implications on their general health and wellbeing. In addition, when there comes a time for you to move about, you will likely cramp up or strain a muscle because you’re not used to such a sudden stretch. Furthermore, you are prone to developing hip and back pain, since sitting shortens your hip flexors and compresses the discs in your spine, increasing the likelihood of premature degradation in these areas. Degradation of these spinal discs may cause pain and weakness in the back that may spread to neighboring areas such as the neck and shoulders or buttocks and upper thighs. Poor posture and a chair with insufficient support will exacerbate these issues as well.

Thankfully, this gradual deterioration in health can be halted before it’s too late. With adequate physical activity per day, health risks brought on by sitting can be strategically avoided. However, busy working days and demanding academic schedules make it exceptionally difficult for most to squeeze in time to work out regularly. That is why stretching— even if you’re not planning on exercising vigorously— is the golden solution.

Stretching, as we all know, increases flexibility. Your muscles, stiff from being stationary all day, need this movement to both reduce tension and alleviate pain. Stretching also promotes blood circulation, which increases the supply of nutrients that travels through your veins and restores much-needed blood flow to your muscles. This allows for your whole body to feel refreshed and rejuvenated, releasing pent-up stress and raising energy levels. In addition, it encourages proper musculoskeletal alignment, which improves poor posture and all the issues surrounding it, such as back, neck and shoulder pain, as well as poor circulation and digestion.

That being said, stretching should never be done on cold muscles, or muscles that haven’t been warmed up beforehand. Stretching is most effective and least likely to lead to an injury when done after completing a short bout of physical activity, like jogging in place or jumping jacks. Putting on your favorite jam and dancing your heart out for two or three minutes could work too. While stretching, it is important to give both sides of your body symmetrical treatment to reduce the risk of injury. It’s also recommended to hold the position for about 30 seconds and not overdo it to the point of pain. You should aim to release stress, not cause more to your body.

Take five to ten minutes out of your day to give your hunched self a time to unfurl and relax. A well-stretched body will be able to counteract the dangers of sitting.

Cover Photo: (Deposit Photos)

Angela Zhang
Angela Zhang is a junior at Beckman High School. She is an aspiring storyteller who hopes to make a profound impression on her audience with her writing. She is also a passionate cactus enthusiast and has a soft spot for cheesy puns.