There's a fascinating concept called "nonexercise". Have you heard of it? If not, it's roughly reverse to the concept of "catching up on sleep."
You'll often hear people say that they didn't sleep very well during the week, but they're going to try to catch up on sleep during the weekend. Their idea is that a solid ten hours of sleep will refresh them and undo the damage done by a recent lack of sleep. Unfortunately, sleep scientists have shown time and again that catching up on sleep doesn't work.
In the same way, office workers are becoming more and more aware of the dangers of a sedentary lifestyle and the damage that eight hours a day in a chair can do. Office workers are becoming more agreeable to the ideas of exercising and working out. But exercising for an hour or two a week cannot undo the damage inflicted by sitting to the discs, ligaments, and muscles of the low back.
This is where the idea of "nonexercise" comes in. Nonexercise is all the daily activities that you do which give support to your low back, and can be as simple as standing for a while. These are the postures and activities that truly prevent low back pain and disc damage. In other words, simply remaining active during a day can be more beneficial than exercising regularly.
For office workers, this can be as simple as requesting a standing workstation instead of a sitting workstation. Simply by standing for several hours a day, there is far less pressure on the discs of the low back, and the muscles of the back are forced to remain strong and provide extra stability to the spine when needed most.
Although the ideas of remaining active and avoiding sitting have been part of the chiropractic language for many years, I first became aware of the term "nonexercise" in a 2010 article in Men's Health. Here are a couple excerpts, but the whole thing is definitely worth reading.
Make no mistake: "Regularly exercising is not the same as being active," says Peter Katzmarzyk, Ph.D., Hamilton's colleague at Pennington, the nation's leading obesity research center. Katzmarzyk is referring to the difference between official exercise activity, such as running, biking, or lifting weights, and so-called nonexercise activity, like walking to your car, mowing the lawn, or simply standing. "A person may hit the gym every day, but if he's sitting a good deal of the rest of the time, he's probably not leading an overall active life," says Katzmarzyk.
Do you sit all day at a desk? You're courting muscle stiffness, poor balance and mobility, and lower-back, neck, and hip pain. But to understand why, you'll need a quick primer on fascia, a tough connective tissue that covers all your muscles. While fascia is pliable, it tends to "set" in the position your muscles are in most often. So if you sit most of the time, your fascia adapts to that specific position.
As shown above, low back pain from sitting is very closely related to neck and shoulder pain from sitting. More:
So what's a desk jockey to do? Hamilton's advice: Think in terms of two spectrums of activity. One represents the activities you do that are considered regular exercise. But another denotes the amount of time you spend sitting versus the time you spend on your feet. "Then every day, make the small choices that will help move you in the right direction on that sitting-versus-standing spectrum," says Hamilton. "Stand while you're talking on the phone. It all adds up, and it all matters."
Unless otherwise attributed, all content is written by Kyle Johnson, DC, of Johnson Family Chiropractic of Peoria.
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If you have any questions regarding your condition, you should seek the help of Dr. Johnson in person, so that he may properly assess your condition.
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