Tag Archives: back pain

Is sitting a lethal activity? [Research]

A reflection by Crossfit trainer Steven<
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Cracking article in the New York Times on research into inactivity, especially related to ‘chair & desk’ culture.

I have been considering for quite a while the idea of a stand up desk, at least at home. My miserable seated posture and the back and neck pain I experience from sitting for hours a day should have been enough to spur me into action. And then I read this:

This is your body on chairs: Electrical activity in the muscles drops — “the muscles go as silent as those of a dead horse,” Hamilton says — leading to a cascade of harmful metabolic effects. Your calorie-burning rate immediately plunges to about one per minute, a third of what it would be if you got up and walked.

Oh dear. Dead horses?

‘Is sitting a lethal activity’, New York Times, 14 April 2011

Edit: There is also an earlier article with moar science in it: ‘Stand up while you read this!’, New York Times, 23 Feb 2010

Sitting is killing you

An interesting reflection by Crossfit trainer Colin Mennis

No Sit

As I write this I am standing at my kitchen counter as you read this I want you to stand up and even walk around, it could save your life (unless you are outside, then don’t)

Recent studies including some historical reviews of lifestyle changes have concluded that inactivity is killing us. In fact it is regarded in some circles as the most serious threat to our health, more than sugar, fat, smoking and alcohol.  Just take a look these facts:

  1. Sitting for 6 hours a day will increase your chance of death within 15 years by 40% compared to someone who sits less than 3 hours per day. EVEN if you exercise.
  2. Studies have shown obese people sit 2.5 hours more than thin people per day.
  3. Despite more people exercising than ever before obesity has doubled since the 1980’s. Our sitting time has increased by nearly 10%

Studies have discovered some amazing facts about cellular damage due to inactivity. After just 7 hours of sitting we show the first early signs of insulin sensitivity. Our calorific use can drop as low as 1 per minute. Fat fighting enzymes drop by as much as 90%. There is twice as much cardiovascular disease among those with sitting jobs than those with standing jobs.  A great study on the old London buses clearly demonstrated this back in the late sixties comparing the drivers health with the conductors.  And I will repeat exercising regularly will not help you.

As health professionals we advise exercise and eat less and well for weight loss and better health.  Homeostasis, what a pain. Studies have shown that people who take up exercise and/or diet for weight loss become less active throughout their day. They start sitting and lounging around for longer. Yes they can feel overtly tired and feel the need to rest but the body is also working away against your ambitions. It does not like change and you will subconsciously do less and less to maintain the calorie in/out balance. Some people have even been shown to put on weight while dieting because they are burning so few calories!

As health professionals we need to be informing clients and making them constantly reflect on their activity levels during the day.  Maybe add an activity diary to that food diary. Those clever little wrist bands that monitor movement, I thought they were gimmicks, but maybe not? People need to know to stand whenever they can. Configure their desk so they can stand more, use stairs, walk up escalators and stand up when commuting.

I exercise regularly with biking, running, strength and metcon training but none of that will undo the damage caused by the hours on end I sit at my desk or on the tube. So I have made changes, you should too.

Back Pain, Pain killers

I think its pretty essential, especially when the pain gets acute to be able to switch it off, otherwise you start getting psychological issues too, like depression and misery. Pain wears you down!

This blog article will grow over the next few weeks as we ask, whats the best over the counter pain relief you can get! If you have  insight, please put in in comments. I must admit, I found Naproxen, not that good ( although its a prescription drug)

Obviously, see your doctor and don’t get addicted and get to understand “Red Flags”

The value of Aerobic capacity

This post may sound like  a throw back to the  aerobic era of the 80’s and 90’s, but based on over 15 years of clinical training experience, I’d say its an error to factor out of your training an effective aerobic component.

It should always be there.  In the issue of bad backs, its essential that you commit to regular physical activity,  preferably outside.  At the very least, if you are walking around with a locked down core,  a natural curve in your back, you are not sitting slumped!

This does not mean hours of Long Slow Distance, but it certainly means 20- 30 minutes of low to moderate  back sparing “cardio” every day. This could be cycling to work, a fast lunchtime walk, or a jog or a run. There are lots of  benefits to underpinning cardio activity, but, when you are suffering from back pain, a few natural endorphins  pumping around won’t harm you