Article For All Those Who Have A Desk Job
Monday, October 04, 2010
Below is a summary of an article I received from a Fitness Instructor. I am unable to reference where the article came from but it was a special report titled "Sentenced to the Chair" by Maria Masters.
Do you lead an active lifestyle or a sedentary one? The question is simple but the answer may not be as obvious as you think. Let’s say for example you’re a busy guy who works 60 hours a week at a desk job but who still manages to find time for five 45-minute bouts of exercise. Most experts would label you as active. But Marc Hamilton Ph.D has another name for you: couch potato. Perhaps “exercising couch potato” would be more accurate, but Hamilton, a physiologist and professor at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, Louisana, would still classify you as sedentary. “People tend to view physical activity on a single continuum.,” he says. “On the far side you have a person who exercises a lot, on the other, a person who doesn’t exercise at all. However they’re not necessarily polar opposites.” Hamilton’s take, which is supported by a growing body of research, is that the amount of time you exercise and the amount of time you spend on your butt are completely separate factors for heart-disease risk. New evidence suggests, in fact, that the more hours a day you sit, the greater your likelihood of dying an earlier death regardless of how much you exercise or how lean you are. That’s right: Even a sculpted six-pack can’t protect you from your chair. But it’s not just your heart that’s at risk from too much sitting; your hips, spine and shoulders could also suffer. In fact, it’s not a leap to say that a chair-potato lifestyle can ruin you from head to toe.
Do you site all day at a desk? You’re courting muscle stiffness, poor balance and mobility, and lower-back, neck and hip pain. But to understand why you’ll need a quick primer on fascia, a tough connective tissue that covers all your muscles. While fascia is pliable, it tends to “set” in the position your muscles are in most often. So if you sit most of the time, your fascia adapts to that specific position.
Now think about where your hips and thighs are in relation to your torso while you’re sitting. They’re bent, which causes the muscles on the front of your thighs, known as hip flexors, to contract slight, or shorten. The more you sit, the more the fascia will keep your hip flexors shortened. “If you’ve ever seen a guy walk with a forward lean, it’s often because of shortened hip flexors,” says Hartman. “The muscles don’t stretch as they naturally should. As a result, he’s not walking tall and straight because his fascia has adapted more to sitting than standing”
The same effect can be seen in other areas of your body. For instance, if you spend a lot of time with your shoulder and upper back slumped over a keyboard, this eventually becomes your normal posture. “That’s not just an issue in terms of how you look, it frequently leads to chronic neck and shoulder pain”, say Hartman. Also, people who frequently cross their legs a certain way can experience hip imbalances. “This makes your entire lower body less stable, which decreases your agility and athletic performance and increase your risk for injuries’” Hartman says. All all this up and a person who sits a lot is less efficient not only at exercising but also at simple moving from say, the couch to the refrigerator.
There’s yet another problem with all that sitting. “IF you spend too much time in a chair, your glute muscles will actually forget how to fire”, say Hartman. This phenomenon is aptly nicknamed “gluteal amnesia”. A basic anatomy reminder: your glutes, or butt muscles are your body’s largest muscle group. So if they aren’t functioning properly you won’t be able to squat or deadlift as much weight and you won’t burn as much fat. After all muscles burn calories. Ant that makes your glutes a powerful furnace for fat - a furnace that’s probably been switched off if you spend most of the day on your duff.
It gets worse. Weak glutes as well as tight hip flexors cause your pelvis to tilt forward. This puts stress on your lumbar spine, resulting in lower-back pain. It also pushes your belly out, which gives you a protruding gut even if you don’t have an ounce of fat. The changes to your muscles and posture form sitting are so small that you won’t notice them at first. But as you reach your 30s, 40s, 50s and beyond they’ll gradually become worse” says Hartman “ and a lot harder to fix”.
So what’s a desk jockey to do? Hamilton’s advise: Think in terms of two spectrums of activity. One represents the activities you do that are considered regular exercise. But another denotes the amount of time you spend sitting versus the time you spend on your feet. “Then every day, make the small choices that will help you move in the right direction on that sitting-versus-standing spectrum.”, says Hamilton. “Stand while you’re talking on the phone. It all adds up and it all matters”.