Musicians' Health Collective

Musicians' Health Collective: Supporting the health of musicians (and normal people)

Move More, Sit Less

If you read fitness and wellness articles as much as I do, you'll notice there's a new trend, with sensationalist headlines like:

Image and article from the August 2013 issue of Runner's World.  I don't necessarily know if sitting is the new smoking (I think high heels win for that title), but we could definitely do with sitting less often.

Image and article from the August 2013 issue of Runner's World.  I don't necessarily know if sitting is the new smoking (I think high heels win for that title), but we could definitely do with sitting less often.

"Sitting is the New Smoking"

Sitting Is Bad for You. So I Stopped. For a Whole Month.

Are You STILL Sitting?

And of course, Why Sitting Is Killing You

So what's the problem here?  Why all the fuss about sitting?  If you do your 45 minute workout and then sit at work (teaching, orchestra, etc.), then aren't you following healthy movement protocol?  Not so much, actually. 

First of all, sitting all day, standing all day, walking all day... any perpetual action isn't inherently good or bad-It's the quality of movement plus the elapsed time spent in that activity.  If you walk and stand a lot, but wear poor shoes and have dubious movement patterning, then you could easily be in pain.  (Hello waitressing, customer service, retail, nursing, and teaching !)  With sitting, most of us sit on our sacrums instead of our sitz bones (which by now, you have seen discussed frequently, from sitting for children to sitting on a bike...) and then we sit for 8-10 hours a day.  (Drive to work, sit to bike, sit to play, sit to eat, sit to hang out with friends, sit to type, write, etc.)   Try Katy Bowman's How Much Do I Sit Quiz for a good reality check on how much you're actually sitting.

So back to the task at hand.  What are some of the consequences of perpetual sitting?

Sitting looks pretty scary, eh?

Sitting looks pretty scary, eh?

1.  Musculoskeletal problems from poor alignment.  Ahh, repetitive stress injury, I know thee well.  We've mentioned some of these issues already, but here  are a few of these again:

Head Forward yielding Neck Issues

Sitting on the Sacrum and Not the Ischial Tuberosities

Slump in the Upper Body (excessive spinal flexion)

Let's not forget that our muscles and bones respond to the stress we put on them, so the musculature of your hips, back, core, shoulders, etc., will start to lose mobility if you're constantly sitting, especially in poor alignment.  Remember, when you bring these issues to your normal seated position, they follow you when you play in orchestra, chamber music, recitals, driving, etc.  They're a real pain (pun intended).

2.  Cardiovascular Issues.  Katy Bowman's blog is great for explaining this in more detail than I can, but short form summary, even if you lower your cholesterol and you "exercise" every day for an hour, you can't undo the effects of sitting.  Your blood cells pass through your arteries, hopefully smoothly, but sitting creates more of a maze like structure for cells to pass through.  It's like an obstacle course for your blood cells, and if you've already got thickened arteries from genetics and other factors, your body is more at risk for cardiovascular issues.  (She explains this so much better than I do because she is a science-y lady, not a violist.)  This makes sense though-you can be an ultra marathoner on the weekends and still have heart disease, even if you have high intensity workouts planned frequently. 

"You can’t undo 8 hours of wounding with a run or with bigger muscles. Fitness doesn’t touch the wound that has been created." - Katy Bowman

3.  There are various other studies that link computer use and sitting with an all over decrease in movement, which affects weight, lymphatic flow, blood flow, muscle strength, etc, and frankly, science hasn't made an all encompassing statement on all the bad things that happen to you when you sit all the time.  I think we can all agree that we should sit less though.

Ok.  So now what?  If you're a cellist or pianist, you're logging some serious sitting time, i.e., 8-10 hours a day sometimes, if you practice, teach, rehearse, drive, bike, and type.  That's more than most of us sleep, which is distressing.  Rather than try to undo that with intense cardio or weightlifting, let's move more.  Walk more often.  Take breaks and stretch every half hour or so.  Have meetings while walking.  Stand while typing.  Pay attention to how you sit in the car.  Make phone calls while walking rather than while sitting. 

More on that next time, but start noticing how much you sit every day.  Seriously. 






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