As a physiotherapist, when I ask people what they think the causes of muscular, joint pain and injury are, they often suggest physical injury or excessive body movements. These activities do cause injury however the most common or most underrated cause is being a “couch potato”. A couch potato to put it simply is a sedentary lifestyle.
The sedentary lifestyle is becoming more common in Nigeria with more people working from home in recent times. We leave our house into a car, from the car to our office where we sit throughout the day and then back home again. To break out of the sedentary lifestyle, an adult should get at least 150 minutes of exercise in a week. How many people are able to achieve that? I know I have not been able to achieve that lately.
What is a sedentary lifestyle?
It is a lifestyle that allows an individual to remain immobile either in a seated position or lying down for long hours throughout the day. With little or no exercise. Sitting for long hours through traffic, sitting even longer hours at work and then at home predisposes one to a variety of health concerns such as Arthritis, osteoporosis, weakened muscles and joints.
How sitting for long hours affects the back
Continuous and prolonged sitting puts immense pressure on the discs in your spine further accelerating their degeneration. It also causes the muscles that keep the spine upright to become fatigued resulting in a slouched posture. Fatigued muscles do not get an adequate supply of oxygen and nutrients. At this point, your body gives you signals like back pain to get you to reengage your muscles. Persistently sitting for long periods without adequate back support or adopting proper posture will result in back problems.
Fix your posture
If you have to sit for long periods consider the following:
- Keep all screens at eye level. If using a cell phone, bring it up to eye level to prevent a slouched posture. If sitting at the office, adjust screen height to eye level.
- Pay attention to your form. Ensure you are in a neutral upright posture. Leaning forward compresses the discs in your spine. Leading backwards also does the same. To help with this, ensure the chair you sit in has adequate back support, especially for the lower back.
- Adjust the height of your chair to ensure both feet are touching the floor. If that is not possible, use a footstool.
- Stand from time to time to stretch. You can also perform stretches while seated.
Though it may be difficult to find the time or energy to be active, plan the time into your day. Start small by taking short walks and then build up gradually. The benefits of an active youth are evident in old age.