The Setbacks of Sitting


Extended periods of sitting can lead to a state of compromise in the postural muscles. Posture is comprised of more than the back muscles. The deep core muscles and even those on the posterior hip and upper thigh play a role the maintenance of good posture and for ambulation. Range of motion in the anterior hip joint is also affected due to concomitant tightness that results from prolonged sitting. These are changes that occur over time. They can be minimized and corrected through proper exercise and movement.


Sitting can pose challenges to those within the modern working society. Lack of movement facilitates patterns of faulty muscle engagement. Sitting can over-ride the design of the body to be in an erect position. Instead of standing up and looking out over the horizon, many spend their time slouched over a desk, a piece of equipment, or sitting improperly in a chair. None of these options is good for posture. The convenience of sitting need not lead to compromises in bodily physiology or mechanics.

The muscles of the posterior torso are important for maintaining good posture. Particularly, mid back, the posterior shoulder-girdle area, and the posterior neck area all exhibit negative effects from sitting. These are the muscle groups that lengthen and weaken as extended periods of sitting ensue. This allows for muscular shortening in the corresponding anterior areas of the body (the chest). Rounded shoulders, upper-cross syndrome, and forward head become noticeable, more pronounced and, over time, more of a challenge to correct.


The deep core musculature becomes weakened due to compromised positioning. Relative inactivity of these muscles does not lend to proper spinal support / stabilization. This can lead to biomechanical compensations that negatively affect posture. These muscles adequately brace the spine and pull the pelvis into position (from the pubis bone) when they are properly engaged in the upright postural position. One’s being upright and active are important in maintaining the proper functioning of these muscles. The rear thigh muscles are important here as well. They attach to the lower aspect of the rear hip. They assist in positioning the hip into orientation for erect posture. Sitting can cause them to become tight and negatively affect posture and mobility.


The sitting position allows for shortness and tightness to occur in the front of the hip. This is a very important set of muscles because they connect the upper and lower halves of the body. They are critical for standing upright and for bodily movement. Being upright and, more-so, walking requires some degree of spinal extension (slightly arching backward). This set of muscles can be a source of discomfort for the lower back when they are tight and, thus, negatively affect standing and walking. Maintaining adequate length and proper functioning in these muscles is very important.

These are all outcomes that are caused by extended periods of sitting. They occur over time. They at first are not noticeable but become more noticeable with time. Sitting for many is what is prescribed for the jobs that they perform. However, the effects of sitting are not inevitable. Through postural awareness, periodic activities, and proper exercise, the downsides of sitting can be avoided. However, the onus is on the individual to enact the steps necessary for attaining and maintaining postural efficacy. This blog is the first in a series to redress the effects of sitting.

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