Sitting at your desk is probably hurting you.
The obvious: if you’re sitting you’re not MOVING thus you aren’t burning any energy, so this “activity” is counterproductive for weight management.
Furthermore, a rescent study has shown that, if you sit at a desk or in any chair for more than six hours a day your risk of heart disease goes up by 64%.
Sitting for prolonged periods of time has a LONG list of potential health problems associated with inactivity.
Again, for the most part, this is fairly obvious. Not really groundbreaking information here. Sometimes it’s good to be reminded, though….
Something more interesting and subtle is what sitting is doing to a muscle in your body called the psoas. The psoas is a hip flexor that has its origin on your lower back and inserts on your femur. This is a big, thick beast of a muscle that (with some smaller helper muscle) is primarily responsible for lifting the leg (like when running) and flexing forward at the hip (like a sit up).
When sitting for long periods of time, your body is flexed at the hip, shortening this muscle. When a muscle is chronically shortened, it has poor oxygen supply. Poor oxygen supply leads to spasm and muscle adhesion (which is basically glue not allowing a muscle to contract or extend). So, after sitting for long periods of time, repeatedly, you are effectively glueing this muscle in a shortened position.
The problem with a shortened psoas muscle is:
A) youre not going to be able to create much force with a glued muscle, so running, walking, LIVING will be more difficult
B) because the psoas attaches to all 5 lumbar vertebrae, a shortened psoas will be VERY noticeable via pain (and usually an excessive curve)in the low back
C) over time, this pressure on the low back will lead to chronic pain via disc and low back tissue damage
In my 12 years coaching and training, I can confidently say that this is the biggest problem muscle I run into, and the biggest reason for the problem is…..sitting.
The solution here? Obviously, try not to sit for too long. Get up. Move around. Stand and work if possible. You can at least stop further damage this way.
The long term fix involves strengthening the gluteals, especially the glute Maximus, which is a powerful hip EXTENDER (it does the OPPOSITE of the hip flexor). So, exercises like the stiff leg deadlift and hip raises (glute bridges) are good for this. I should note here that, if you have significant adhesion in your psoas, the corrective strength exercises listed above will be limited in their effectiveness.
Definitely consider getting some targeted soft tissue work to remove the “glue”(scar tissue) so the strength training can be more effective. (No amount of foam rolling will accomplish this, by the way.)
Look for more information on corrective exercise for the psoas and a host of other “problem” muscles in the near future.
Matt Pirtle MA CSCS