That makes for a great click-bait title and over the past few years, we've seen so many headlines as to how sitting is the new smoking. This presumably means that the mortality rates of the modern human who spends a substantial amount of time sitting is rising, precisely due to the sitting.

do we sit too much?

This makes the assumption that the hunter-gatherer, our forefathers, were constantly active and didn't sit much. Is that why they were lean and healthy? Is that why we are suffering from poor posture?

Photo by Nathan Dumlao / Unsplash

The reason this question is being asked is because we do sit a lot. From school, we are trained to sit and plod at something. School becomes college becomes a work desk. And 6 hours becomes 8 becomes 10. And with binge-watching, extended work hours - half our lives seems to be spent sitting.

And vaguely, adult health seems to be rather abysmal. Posture is poor. We don't feel vibrant and youthful much. Instead, we tend to have a lot of niggles and aches and pains.

verify the assumption. reframe the problem.

Let's look at the assumption that the hunter-gatherers didn't sit much. They actually sat around quite a bit. Maybe not as much as the modern work-desk human but closer to that than to zero. But it is the other part that differentiates us from them - they peppered their day with lots of light activity, had a couple of hours of moderate activity and a few minutes of intense activity. For example, chopping wood, carrying water, prepping the food etc. And they were done in different seated postures, including a lot of squatting. But never for too long a stretch.

When we frame the problem differently - not as sitting too much but (a) being inactive and (b) sitting for an extended period at a stretch - we can sort this problem out. That's one.

Photo by Sergio Pedemonte / Unsplash

What about the poor posture that we have? Isn't being hunched over with a rounded upper back and rounded lower back the cause for all neck pain and back pain and tightness? Again, the problem seems to be (in addition to the 2 named above) weak muscles in the first place. When we do not have strong back muscles, coupled with habitually sitting in the poor posture, our muscles become weak AND tight. So, the third bit of this issue can be framed as (c) not enough strength and/or resilient muscles, which are unable to counter the sitting.

what can you do about it?

  1. Have a timer for 25 minutes. Whenever the timer goes, get up, walk around. Maybe stretch one muscle. Say a calf stretch. Next time the beeper goes, the other calf. Or do some rocking. Or neck nods. The list is endless. Take 30-60 seconds and just do something that breaks up the sitting.
  2. build enough mobility i.e. can your joints express themselves fully? Or to use less jargon, can you squat freely and without pain?
  3. build some strength i.e. strengthen your glutes, your back, your core and all that jazz.
  4. have a hobby that involves moving about and being moderately active. Gardening, for example. Or doubles badminton.
  5. have one bout of intense activity daily or at least every other day. A 30-minute strength and conditioning session, for example. This and #3 can obviously be the same.

Breaking up the extended sitting with little bits of simple activity, having enough mobility and strength, having some intense activity, and having longer bouts of moderate activity - that's a good solution to get out of the drawbacks of our cultural issue today. Because this is the world we live in and unless our life adapts around it, we will invariably blame sitting too much.

Instead, fix it. Fix your routine. Fix your habits. You don't need to do anything dramatic. Start small.