In an article posted on theactivetimes.com, Diana Gerstacker quoted Dr. James Levine saying “sitting is the new smoking” and listed seven ways (from cancer, to muscle problems) as to why this is the case – I couldn’t agree more. But why? As most of my readers know, I am kind of obsessed with FASCIA – so I’m going to explain the biological and fascial reasons why sitting is so bad for us.
Let me first start by introducing you to Homo Sapien, your ancient grand parent… and where we all came from. This original human was thought to have evolved into a biped (two legged walker) for numerous reasons, of which I would like to highlight: reaching and carrying food, saved energy during locomotion, ability to run, and enhanced field of vision. Please keep in mind that we have not significantly skeletally evolved from this ancient ancestor of ours – we have roughly the same spines, pelvises, legs, arms, etc at birth. Now please tell me how sitting accomplishes any of the tasks we were designed for… I’m betting you can’t. We humans were not designed to sit, period. We were made to be hunters and gatherers, made to have to travel from place to place by foot, made to reach up in trees for our fruits and veggies, made to chase animals for our proteins. We were NOT designed to have a city center or stores where everything is in one place, sit in cars, sit at desks all day, order food from a seated position, sit, sit, sit! We’re just not made for it!
Many of us like to think that we are fairly indestructible beings, and if we do have an ache or pain, we can take a pill, maybe get a massage, and get over it. I hate to tell you that sitting has bigger implications on us than we can manage with just a pill. Forget about decreased cardiovascular functioning and the potential weight gain and other illnesses… sitting is literally crushing our insides and causing some of our muscles to become so weak that they no longer know how to function. This is where my fascia talk comes in. If you need a reminder as to what fascia is, or just don’t know: “Fascia is a connective tissue that is comprised of mostly collagen. The fibers of the fascia form dense bands and sheets that wrap around our muscles and organs to keep everything in neat, little packages. Essentially, fascia is like a plastic wrap for our body. In addition to being plastic wrap, fascia also serves as a mechanism to distribute forces of muscles and external stresses and reduce friction in our bodies”… that’s from my blog about fascia posted in July 2015 (the link is below). When we sit, we are allowing the fascia in our anterior body (from our necks to our pelvises) to shrink and tighten, forming adhesions.
These adhesions are putting constant pressure on your inners: stomach, liver, kidneys, lungs and heart (via immobility of the ribcage), breast tissue, intestines… you might be thinking, “Oh, well it stretches when I stand”… first off, we rarely stand! Secondly, fascia doesn’t stretch with normal stretching, it needs to be heated and worked on with patience like pizza dough. So now we have vital organs and structures that are being placed under constant pressure ALL DAY LONG – last time I checked, no human or part of a human liked being under constant pressure and stress all day long. Unless you are performing specific exercises, stretches, and doing some form of myofascial release, that fascia just stays tight and is squishing your insides. Some studies have hypothesized that the tightness in fascia is causing cells to become cancerous and irritable bowel syndrome, just to name a couple. There have not been enough studies performed to be statistically significant, but I really don’t doubt their findings. I have seen quite a few clients with low back pain who came to me for myofascial release and reported not only no longer having low back pain, but also having their stomach and IBS symptoms significantly improve.
In addition to all the internal organs being in a very unhappy state, our muscles are also not so happy. Sitting on your tush all day long causes excessive tightness of the hip flexors, which in turn causes lessened or even NON-functioning of your gluteals resulting in something now referred to as “dead butt syndrome”. For the clinical significance of this, I have attached the link to another one of my blogs entitled “Why It’s All About That Bass”. Oh, and sitting also causes those tight hamstrings you’re always complaining about.
I could go on for pages about why sitting is so bad for us, but that would require me to sit in front of my computer for longer than is acceptable to me. So I will leave you with the thought: it’s no wonder why “sitting is the new smoking”.
With peace and love,
Alix Terpos PT, DPT