Fitness · Health

Fitness Saturday: Sitting Can Be Scary

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This is another post in our series of Fitness Saturday exercises, workouts, and expert tips appropriate to women in the second half of life. Jonathan Urla, a certified advanced health and fitness specialist, shares tips on how to properly situate the body when sitting.


HAPPY HALLOWEEN! In case you haven’t heard, a new study showed that sitting for prolonged periods increases your risk of getting disease or a condition that will shorten your life. This was true even for those who exercised regularly. Some people have called sitting “the new smoking.” Because it is impossible to go through life without sitting, often for long periods of time, the question is more about how we sit, and for how long. Travel, work, study, attending events, eating, resting, and of course watching TV, all usually involve extended periods of sitting. The ubiquitous nature of this problem means we have to develop more than just a few recommendations, like the ones found in the back of an airplane seat. What is needed is a strategy that brings constructive change to our lifestyle.

1. Choose your seat wisely: Sitting on an airplane or train for a long trip is one of the hardest things on your body. If you can choose your seat, choose an aisle seat so that you can get up easily and move around. Also, you may want to bring a small pillow (it can be an inflatable one like image #1), and place it behind your lower back to provide support. The main thing is not to let more than 20 minutes go by without a standing break. Set the alarm on your watch or phone to buzz to remind you.

pillowSelf-inflating Airback Lumbar Support Pillow

2. New Chair —Not Like the Old Chair: Time can really fly by when we are sitting at a desk working on a project or studying. I highly recommend you put some serious thought into finding the right chair for your body. If possible, choose a desk chair that is adjustable in terms of seat height, has good back support, and can swivel. Big, deluxe, comfy leather office chairs are not designed for most women and are thus not ideal. The height of your seat should be so that with a 90 degree bend in your knees, your feet are flat on the floor. If that puts you too low for your desk height, then you will need a block or foot rest of some kind so that when you have the seat at the right height for your desk, your feet can be flat on something. Also, just like with travel, you still should set a timer to remind you to get up every 20 minutes and do some anti-sitting exercises. You can also try alternatives to the standard office chair, such as a standing desk (image #2), or a physio-ball in a frame (image #3).

Standing deskStanding Desk

office-ball-chairPhysio-ball in a Frame Chair

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  • B October 31, 2015 at 8:18 am

    I use a standing desk at work and it has done wonders for my back!!

  • Roz Warren October 31, 2015 at 8:05 am

    Great piece! I’m one of those people who always sit on the aisle on a plane, and get up to walk around often. I’ve often wondered what it would be like if everyone on the plane moved around as much as I did. Maybe I’ll get to find out.

  • Cheryl Fleming October 31, 2015 at 7:28 am

    I find this article extremely important to read and to heed. Working as a licensed massage therapist in Manhattan, my practice with both medical and sports massage therapy- helps my patients with low back pain from sitting, Working at computers all day- can create overall aches and pains. Your desk options- are a perfect way to get your back and body feeling better.

    Massage helps as it improves your metabolism and circulation and of course is a great stress reliever too. Thank you for bringing this information to your readers. Very important. Great Article- keep them coming!

    Cheryl Fleming- LMT- NYS