Avoid Pain By Changing How You Sit

Author - Stephen Griffith C.S.C.S

Sitting is Killing You

Sitting is Killing You

Humans were meant to move, sit. So ill are the effects of sitting that it’s being deemed the new smoking. When you sit for long periods of time, the body begins to adapt to those positions. Muscles become short and tight while muscles like core and butt turn off. Eventually your body begins to mold itself into a chair and  you lose your ability to move properly. What follows are issues such as lower and upper back pain, neck pain, knee pain, weight gain, and poor metabolic health.   

But this isn’t an article on the misery and misfortune of excessive sitting.  While it's true we sit too much, it would be unhealthy to stop sitting all together. Instead let's go over a few ways you can make sitting less detrimental to your health.

What's the right way to sit?

Chances are someone's told you to stop slouching over - to sit tall, back straight, with your shoulders pulled back. Like a robot or a mannequin.

This advice isn’t bad - especially if your spend your days like quasimodo as an accountant  - but it fails to capture the nuances of sitting.

The reality is that any posture held for too long will be uncomfortable and detrimental.

In the words of low back expert Dr. Stu Mcgill - “ The best sitting posture is a varied sitting posture”

You should spend most of your sitting time spent with “good posture”  but also take a lesson from kids and change your position frequently. I recommend not spending more than 15 minutes in any one position. Besides just changing your position be sure to stand up and walk around periodically. Take time to stretch out the muscles so they can maintain their range of motion.

With that said, let’s go over one of the best adjustments you can make to your daily sitting routine - the floor.

Sitting on the floor can have a tremendous benefit for your health. The Japanese have long had a tradition of sitting on the floor which is one reason why Japanese seniors move better, fall less, and are better equipped to get off the ground as they age.

Most people don’t like sitting on the floor because it’s hard and uncomfortable, it doesn't provide support, and it's harder to get up. But these reasons are also why sitting on the floor can be so beneficial.

The floor is hard

Unlike chairs which are cushioned, the floor is hard. This means that if you sit too long in one position, your butt will start to hurt. That pain is by design - your body is letting you know that you need to move. When in a cushioned chair, it takes much longer to feel that discomfort meaning that you are more likely to sit long in poor positions. As I mentioned before - the best sitting position is a varied sitting position. When you're on the floor you will constantly change your position as you look for comfort.

Additionally, the floor is open. Unlike a chair, It does not lock you into a certain position. It allows you the freedom to sit in many different positions which is a great way to keep the hips mobile.

It doesn’t provide support

Unlike the chair, there is little place to prop yourself up. Instead, your muscles need to do the work of maintaining your posture. This is a great way to maintain the strength of those postural muscles.

It’s harder to get up

Unlike chairs, the floor is lower and does not provide handles to push off of. Which is a great thing. Getting up and down off the ground is a great exercise - one that requires mobility, stability, and coordination. In a sedentary world, any extra movement will do the body good.

Various Sitting Postures

Sitting Positions.png


Sitting and being sedentary are terrible for your health but there are actions you can take to mitigate its effects. The first is to not sit - spend as much time as you can moving and your body will thank you.

However, sometimes sitting is necessary - whether for work or rest. If you're going to sit then avoid chairs, especially the cushioned ones. Opt to sit on the floor as much as possible. It will help you remain mobile, maintain your posture, and get you moving more. Find a nice pillow and a table to do work or eat from while you sit.

I recognize that sitting on the floor isn’t always an option. In these scenarios focus on spending the majority of your time sitting tall in good alignment. Every 15 minutes change up your position and every 30 minutes aim to get up, take a stroll and stretch out.

Follow these prescriptions and use the money you'll save on health issues to get yourself something nice.

Stephen Griffith