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Sit Less, Sit Straight & Be Active

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By Anju Khanna

The human body is like a machine that is made to maintain stability and mobility throughout life. People tend to become less active as they age. The time spent on physical activities grows smaller as people get older. Human body is made functions well with proper rest and diet to rejuvenate. To be healthy, it is significant to use one’s body with correct posture, alignment and movement. Sitting for long periods is not good for our bodies and our health. If one has a sedentary lifestyle and spends a lot of time sitting down, one is putting oneself at risk for a number of conditions and problems including weakness of muscles, obesity, neck and back pain, varicose veins, scoliosis, disc compression and cardiovascular diseases.

So, if you’re not getting enough activity in your day, let’s make a commitment to turn it around and gain great health benefits in the process. Build more activity into your day. A few options could be:–

  • Walk or cycle.
  • Calculate how long it takes you to walk one kilometre – you may find you can reach your destination faster by walking than if you wait for public transport.
  • Be active at work.
  • Walk over and talk to your colleagues.
  • Take your lunch break away from your desk and enjoy a short walk outside if you can.
  • Organise walking meetings.
  • Try indoor activities such as dancing, swimming in an indoor pool, yoga, Pilates, aerobics, Zumba, etc.
  • Walk around when you’re on the phone. Stand up and do some ironing during your favourite television shows.
  • Use the stairs instead of the lift or escalator.

Another important thing to consider is the sitting posture. People usually adopt an inappropriate sitting posture subconsciously when focusing on their work or other things. There is no single ideal sitting posture. We need a variety of chairs that allow different users to sit in a variety of postures. Some studies suggest that the preferred seat back angle for comfort is 15 degrees backward incline. At this angle, the pressure on the intervertebral discs is minimal. Consider the appropriate height, width, depth, seat angle, cushion shape, cushion contours, cushion compressibility, the backrest of a chair and armrests when buying one for long-duration use. You can always consult a physiotherapist to get an evaluation done for your specific needs.

The sitting positions to avoid are:

  • sitting slumped to one side with the spine bent
  • keeping the knees, ankles, or arms crossed
  • feet dangling or not properly supported
  • sitting for a long time in one position and sitting with the head tilted forward.Top of Form

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Practicing good sitting habits is the only way to help improve posture and back health. Tips for a healthy posture and back include:

  • Exercising for at least 30 minutes three times a week, focusing on a mix of stretching, strengthening and aerobic activities.
  • Lifting heavy objects by bending the legs rather than using the back.
  • Keeping heavy loads close to the body when lifting or carrying them.
  • Adjusting the seat when driving to support the back without straining and to allow the knees to bend.
  • Placing lumbar support cushions on seats, including car seats, thus reducing lower back strain.
  • Wearing comfortable and supportive shoes when standing for long periods.
  • Walking with a straight spine and trying to avoid slouching or leaning.
  • Swinging the arms briskly and evenly when walking, jogging or running.

With a bit of caution and paying attention we can keep ourselves healthy and prevent many complications from occurring. So sit less, sit straight and be active.

(Anju Khanna is a Physiotherapist at Latika Roy Foundation, Dehradun)