Sitting Will Not Kill You... But Inactivity Can Hurt

Let's get this out of the way at the beginning and say that while sitting isn't an ideal way to spend the day it isn't going to kill you. Unless, that is, you park your ass somewhere it shouldn't be, like this guy.


Aside from this being a genius spot to place your favorite in-laws for the upcoming holiday dinner get-togethers, it isn't the sitting that is going to kill Uncle Rico, it is his inaction. Perhaps this is a bit of an extreme example but nonetheless illustrates the looming dangers of inactivity. 

The average cubical commando powers through long bouts of sitting unbeknownst to the fact that for every hour you sit at a desk you spend about 20 fewer calories than if you were to stand. This is because you are using less muscles; you are no longer tensing muscles in your legs, back or shoulders as you support and shift your weight. Standing for eight-hours a day adds up to 160 calories, which is the equivalent to a half-hour walk. Extrapolate this over weeks and years and you can see that the energetic difference between mostly sitting versus standing presents a significant difference. 

Diving further into the problems affecting Uncle Rico and the prime reason he can't throw a pigskin a quarter mile like he did back in 82, is the result that sitting for hours upon hours has on muscle atrophy, especially those which support the back and abdomen enabling stability of the trunk. If we look at it in terms of muscle activity, sitting in a comfortable chair isn't much different than lying in bed and it is universally accepted that prolonged bed rest has many deleterious effects on the body, including a weaker heart, muscle degeneration, bone loss and elevated levels of tissue inflammation. Sitting in a comfortable chair with a backrest, a headrest and an armrest should be seen as a very similar scenario and while this will not kill you it does nothing to promote optimal health. The price you pay for comfort is paid in the deterioration of those muscles within the buzz worthy "core," all of which are minimally active for the duration of sitting. 


Another kind of atrophy plaguing Uncle Rico and those enduring endless hours of sitting, is muscle shortening. As you sit in a fixed position for a lengthy period of time immobilizing joints, the muscles that are no longer stretched can become shorter or tight. When sitting in a chair, your hips and knees are flexed at right angles, a position which shortens the hip flexor muscles that cross the front of you hip. Sitting in this position repeatedly, day in and out can functionally shorten the hip flexors. Then, when you stand your shortened hip flexors are so tight they they tilt the pelvis forward leading to an exaggerated lumbar curve and low back pain. 


Fortunately, none of the aforementioned problems are permanent and can be overcome with a properly instituted program of stretching and mobility work, as well as strengthening those muscles that have become weak. And remember that while sitting will not kill you, inactivity can. It is always a good idea for anyone spending long hours in a chair to get up, move and stretch regularly. 

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