Musicians' Health Collective

Musicians' Health Collective: Supporting the health of musicians

"Don't Just Sit There"-How Much Are you Sitting Every Day?

"Dynamic" and "standing" workstations are popular these days, both at home and in the office workplace.  The NY Times even had a mildly ridiculous article on "what to wear at a standing work station."  Although I could care less what you wear at your desk, musicians tend to think that such trends in movement and computer use don't apply to them, and I'm here to refute that.  (Side note: my teacher in restorative exercise, Katy Bowman, just wrote an excellent book called "Don't Just Sit there" from which this opening quote is taken.  It's a good book.  Go get it!)

Musicians sit a lot, whether it's in rehearsal where you have to sit 3-6 hours a day, or in your car, or at home, or making reeds, or because you play an instrument that requires sitting like piano or cello.  Some people are logging 12-16 hours of sitting a day!  The position of sitting in a chair has its own consequences- restricting mobility in the tissues and joints, alteration of the resting length of muscles, and for some people, more substantial postural issues can emerge, such as forward head position and pelvic floor issues from poor alignment!  Then factor in that HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) is all the range in the exercise community- think extreme bouts of intense athletic training, and no wonder people are in pain.  If you imagine that you're sedentary and chair bound for 8-10 hours a day, and then try to pursue intense athletic feats with little transition, that's a recipe for pain, tissue damage, and potential injury.  Last year, I talked a bit about how to sit less and move more, and some of consequences of long term sitting, but there's also a correlation with diseases including repetitive stress injuries, cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, and premature death. 

So how does this apply to you?  Do you always practice sitting down?  (If you play an instrument that requires sitting, the answer is probably yes).  How many hours a day are you sitting to practice or rehearse?  How many hours a day are you sitting for other activities, such as eating, teaching, driving, or using the computer?  If you don't have to practice sitting, try standing for part of your practice session, or sitting in a different chair.  When teaching, I often like to stand so that I can see what the student is doing from different angles, rather than be stationery and observe.  Start to become more aware about how much you're sitting, and when you need to be sitting (rehearsal), and when you perhaps don't need to be sitting so much.  Next time, I'll share a bit about my standing computer workstation (yes, I have one of those), and how it's helped me.