Save Your Back – Sit Properly at Work

Curtis: Hi, my name’s Curtis Howden, I’m
the fitness manager at Edgemont World Health. Today, we’re actually going to start talking
a little bit about sitting in the office and what that does to your body and also a couple
of different options that we have available for us. First of all, one of things to understand
is exactly what sitting all day does to you. In our society, lots of the stuff that we’re
doing is sitting at computers, sitting in a car. All sorts of things like this. One
thing that we need to understand is this is all deviating anteriorly, so driving, computer,
whatever it is, we’re always in this position. There’s a few things that are happening
here. First of all we need to know that our hamstrings are getting tight. Okay. This is
part of what we consider our posterior chain, the back of our body. Getting tight hamstrings
is something that’s really normal for people that sit a lot. Okay, this is a common area
that we need to work on as trainers. Another thing that sitting’s doing to us is it’s
loosening your lower back, so all day we’re sitting like this. Okay? Along with that is
tightening up what’s called our hip flexors, okay? Comes across the junction here. Now,
what we’re looking at in this situation is it’s like holding a weight in your hand
all day long. You’re bicep would be working and tricep would be elongating. Okay? This
is the front of your body; this is the back of your body. As this gets tighter and tighter,
you’re obviously going to experience a little bit of pain there, but lots of what you’re
going to have happen is loosening here. That’s where you’ll notice big changes. Okay? Similar
with your back. As soon as we start getting a loose lower back, we can’t control it
anymore. We actually don’t even know how to get into extension for a lot of people.
What we need to figure out is how we can counterbalance this when we’re sitting for say six to eight
hours a day, but we’re actually only doing exercise with our trainer or even on our own
for maybe an hour a day. Okay? Most people are only doing that four to five times a week.
Okay? With all this going on what we need to understand is that we do have a few options
as far as sitting. Okay? What we’re going to discuss first is a few different options
and exactly what they can do for your body and how that’s going to help. Then after
that we’ll discuss a few things that we can do in the gym that are going to help us
counterbalance the effects of sitting all day in the current lifestyle that we live.
The first type of chair that we’re going to discuss is probably the most common that
you’ll see in the office setting. This chair is designed for comfort. Okay? This is not
designed to functionally help your body. What we’re going to talk about here is exactly
what people actually use this chair for. Which is getting comfortable. If you’re sitting
at a computer, how often do you walk by and see someone sitting upright, away from the
back of their chair. This is facilitating us to sit back like this and you’ll notice
the forward head lean right away, okay? Some interesting thing that happens with your back
is when our lower back isn’t extended our upper back isn’t extended either. We need
to notice that when we sit in this chair the support that we are getting only happens when
we come way back and then you’re going to kick forward to see your computer screen reach
for your mouse. Okay. Again, this is going to deviate us anterior and we don’t have
anything that’s actually giving us the ability to use our sitz bones, which are on the bottom
of your pelvis to actually sit up straight and get into extension in your spine. This
is going to be a chair that’s going to help with hamstring tightness. You’re going to
get a lot of that hamstring tightness still. You’re going to get even more hip flexor
tightness because we have to get way back here to use the back of chair and also that
forward tip that’s going to affect muscles of your neck, upper back. It’s also going
to tighten your abs and that’s something that most people exacerbate by going to the
gym at the end of the day and doing sit ups and helping them deviate more and more anterior.
Okay? This is the first type of chair. This is probably worst case scenario as far as
chairs. Okay? What we need is something that can allow us to use our core to actually activate
some muscles and sit in a proper position that can kind of fight against some of this
stuff that’s going to be going on. One thing that we can do with this traditional
chair is we can make it a little bit more active. Something we call “active sitting”,
which is going to allow the muscles of our core to work. We can just set this on our
chair here. Typically closer to the front. What we want to do is stay away from the back
part of chair a little bit more. When we sit on this, it’s actually quite uncomfortable
to try to sit back because it will enhance that kind of forward pelvic lean. When we
do sit up straight on this, you’ll find that you can actually just sit into your pelvis
and it’ll hold the weight for you. What’s that doing is engaging the muscles of your
core. It’s allowing your back to work. It’s allowing a lot of stuff to happen. This isn’t
necessarily going to help with that tightness in the hip flexors because it isn’t a prolonged
period of a similar kind of sitting pattern, but what it is going to help us do is actually
get our core involved, so that we’re not going to have the postural problems of sitting
forward like this where as we can more sit in to our computer and actually be an extension
in our spine, which is going to be very helpful for us. A really cheap and effective tool
of making our chair a little bit more active. Another option that we have when we start
talking about sitting for prolonged periods of time is a ball. You’ve seen this a lot
more probably in the office. It’s a little bit cheaper as far as chairs go, but the big
problem that we run into with the ball is height. To get the proper height for our body,
we should have around a 90 degree angle at the knee, so you’ll notice a lot of people
are sitting on a ball that’s a little bit too high for them. They can’t actually plant
their feet. They can’t sit properly on it, but if we do get a ball that’s close to
the right height, again it’s going to be like our disc on our chair. It allows us to
sit forward and get that extension in our spine. Again, we’re still going to have
some tightness in our hip flexors, probably hamstrings because we are in this position
for a long period of time, but a cheap and effective way of making it so that we can
be in a good position. The other advantage to doing this is that we can actually move
a little bit on the ball. When we get uncomfortable it’s not just sitting in one place allowing
everything to glue up. We can actually move and let our spine decompress a little bit.
Move around and get those joints to actually experiencing something that would be considered
movement rather than just sitting in one position all day. Getting into some sort of functional
state of rigor mortis at the office. This is a chair that’s a little bit more
high tech. We call this the “Swapper”. This is going to be probably best case scenario.
It’s a little bit more expensive than an exercise ball, but it does allow us to adjust
height. It allows us to change how much the chair will actually tip back and forth and
it’ll make sure that we can get some sort of active sitting in that’s going to be
positive for our body. Okay? You’ll notice right away, one of the things here is we’re
unlimited with where our feet can go. Whereas with the ball, you’re feet have to go way
up front. With this if our hip flexors are getting tight throughout the day, we can actually
just step our feet back and open that up a little bit. Again, it allows us for that movement
from when our back starts getting a little bit tight and we’ve been in the same position
for a long period of time, but you’ll notice when we’re sitting at our computer, again,
we can get into a good extended position at our spine. Activate the muscles of our core
and it does give us that freedom to move. Okay? This is what we’d consider probably
best case scenario, but it is going to be something that you’ll notice especially
over a long period of time. If you’re doing the right type of activity and you’re actually
getting off of your chair and going for a walk during your breaks.
As far as exercises, when we start talking about strengthening the posterior chain, that’s
something that you can look up on a lot of different websites. Posterior chain when we’re
talking about that it’s hamstrings, glutes or butt and your lower back. Those are the
three muscles that are really supporting this extension that we start talking about. That’s
what allows us to stand up. Okay? Now, what we’re looking at as far as exercise we can
do anything that we want as far as extension, but something that’s a really good place
to start is a basic dead lift. Now, we don’t have to do a full range of motion right away.
All we need to do is learn how to control our hips. Now there’s two different types
of control that you need with your hips, okay? There’s anterior tilt and posterior tilt.
Now anterior tilt will be when we actually tip the back of your hips up, okay? This is
extension of the spine. The other thing would be posterior tilt where we’re pulling the
hips forward. You notice that doesn’t involved moving the hips at all. It’s just tipping.
Okay? That sort of control to pull forward. This is transverse abdominus, which is under
your rectus abdominus, your six pack. Okay? This is glutes. Okay? When we start getting
into an extension position, which is lifting into that anterior tilt position, what we
need there is we’re going to be using a lot of lower back, okay? If we can get into
this dead lifting, it’s help satisfy both different movements. Okay? We can start out
even if we’re not using weight, we can start out with our hands on our hips, extend your
hips back and arch your back. You can see this big sway in my back here. This is going
to be good for extension. All we have to do is come down to the knees here. You feel a
little tension in the hamstring and in the glute. That’s good. It’s an active stretch.
When we come back up, we’re just going to use that posterior tilt. Squeeze those hips
and squeeze your glutes together, okay? This is going to be a really good starting point.
There’s a whole lot of back extension type activities that you can do, but this is one
of the most functional things that we can do because if we know how to bend right, we
can protect our spine. Even if we are experiencing a little bit of tightness from our daily life.
If you have any questions on anything that we went over today, you can feel free to go
to any World Health location. I would prefer you to come to the Edgemont location, but
any one will do. For all this equipment we have Fitter First to thank – we have the
disc, the ball and the Swapper. You can check those out online. All three of things can
make your office life a little bit better and definitely help with little amounts of
back pain and that sort of thing that you’re dealing with.

30 thoughts on “Save Your Back – Sit Properly at Work

  1. Very helpful tips!!! Thanks, this will help me out alot!!! đŸ™‚

  2. I enjoyed the video but with an active job I don't necessarily have to worry about the office chair. It's when I get home in my recliner, that's the only time I have problems, how do we relax at home properly!?

  3. What sort of problems are you having? Do you get back pain? Sitting with proper posture, whether you're driving or sitting in a recliner, is still very important

  4. incredible low back tightness/discomfort. i'm fine in all other situations except sitting any way in either of my recliners

  5. Could definitely be how you're sitting. Make sure you sit with good posture. So much is just in tilting your pelvis, strengthening your back muscles and being aware of how you're sitting and stretching your hip flexors

  6. Great video, learned something new about the swopper chair! will check that out. I just started using an exercise ball, and I can feel it's positive effects already. I have a concern – will the change in sitting habits/apparatus possibly help improve circulation in the lower legs? I bought the exercise ball to replace my chair because I sit so long in my new job that my legs were starting to bother me.

  7. Sitting on a more active apparatus (Swopper/exercise ball) will help improve circulation since you will be moving more than sitting prone in a traditional chair which will help the blood flow to your legs and other extremities.

  8. sitting at work like that gave me plantar faciatis, tightened my hamstrings… Went down to my feet

  9. What do you normally sit on? What shoes do you wear when running/working out?

  10. @worldhealthca this was about 2 or 3 years ago, I started stretching my hamstring using the towel around the back of the heel stretching method. I was wearing flat "work shoes" the kind you wear at an office job.. Sitting all day with my legs folded under my seat.. If you understand what I'm saying… My knees flexed under and crossed behind my legs sitting forward in a office chair… Shortened my hamstrings. I'm fine now

  11. @worldhealthca, appreciate the video and the tips! I ruptured my ACL playing soccer in 2009 and never really had any hip, leg and lower back issues till this year. I work in the web industry, prolonged sitting is part of the job and recently my lower left back has been achy as well as my hip flexors and my hamstrings. It feels as my hamstrings are the cause of this pain as it's all connected. It's only isolated to my left side, does this sound like a hamstring issue? Thanks!

  12. What do you think of this chair?

  13. at first, please , buy decent mic for better(louder) sound for people, who have to listen with headphones. i noticed  i i'm sitting totally wrong and i know now  how to sit properly. thank you

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