Get Up. Stand Up.

stand for better health May 30, 2016
diagram of monkey turning into human who is then sitting in a chair with a big red X over the person

In a recent article, Diana Gerstacker quoted Dr. James Levine saying that “Sitting is the new smoking,” he and listed seven ways (from cancer, to muscle problems) as to why this is the case. We couldn’t agree more. 

But why?  We're going to explain the biological and fascial reasons why sitting is so bad for us.

We are Homo Sapiens

Let me first start by introducing you to Homo Sapien, your ancient grandparent… 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!

Dangers of Sitting

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. 

H3: Fascia

This is where fascia comes in. If you need a reminder as to what fascia is, or just don’t know: “Fascia is a connective tissue that is composed 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.” 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 can cause conditions like cancer 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.

H3: Impact on muscles

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 NO function in glutes, resulting in something now referred to as “dead butt syndrome”. 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.”