Member Login

Sitting – Worse for you than Smoking?

February 17th, 2014
The Paleo Secret's Sitting Solution

Is sitting the new smoking? It may actually be worse for you…
As a Doctor of Physical Therapy I’ve treated thousands of patients with neck pain, back pain, bulging and herniated disc etc.

I’ve also seen a heck of lot of knee pain, shoulder issues, hip pain and ankle problems.

I’ve seen pretty much every diagnosis that they’ve come up with at this point.

But I’m not so much interested in the little things anymore.

Rarely is where pain experienced actually the source of pain.

I’m interested in the root issues.

When it comes to majority of musculoskeletal issues that I see in the clinic, they are not issues coming from a car accident, a sports related injury or some other trauma.

They come from sitting.

Go here to watch the Sitting Solution Video

Sitting my friends is the root of the problem.

In the same way that sugar, toxic fats, and gut irritating foods are making us sick, fat, and unhappy… sitting is right there with it, destroying us slowly and painfully.


Sitting is devastating to our health (and not just our musculoskeletal health).

Research is showing a strong correlation between sitting and cardiovascular disease.

Those who sit throughout the day are much more likely to have a heart attack.

This is not to say that sitting causes heart disease… but it’s definitely contributing to the problem.

It’s also been shown to increase blood pressure.

Sitting also makes our bones weak and makes it more likely that we will develop osteoporosis.

This makes perfect sense being that bones get stronger and adapt when a stress is applied on them.

We call this Wolff’s law.

When we sit we apply little to no stress to our bones other than what gravity and the chair is giving us, our bones become weaker, we hurt, we break and then we think we need to supplement with calcium pills or something.

Not the answer.

Quick side note… if you want to give the stress your bones need to be stronger its helps to learn how to lift something heavy and put it down.

Sitting literally gets our bodies stuck in positions they were never designed for.

Our perfect anatomical human frames get molded into a slouched, forward head, C-shaped spine that sends our bodies on a downward spiral of pain.

From impinged shoulders, to tight hip flexors, headaches and carpal tunnel I assure you it’s most likely coming from sitting.

We are meant to be upright and moving creatures who align ourselves to gravity, not surrender to it.

Just think about how often we sit in our modern daily lives.

We wake up and eat breakfast (sitting), drive to work (sitting), work from 8-12 (sitting), eat lunch (sitting), work the afternoon shift (sitting), drive home (sitting), eat dinner (sitting), watch TV (sitting) and finally its bedtime (hopefully not in the chair:).

This wasn’t always the case.

Up until the 19th century most humans made a living performing manual labor, moving lifting and carrying.

Now because of technology and cubicles only 2% of the population is making a living upright.

Go here to watch the Sitting Solution Video


The reality is we can’t avoid sitting all together but we can create better habits and more awareness around this problem.

We can choose better positions and we can unglue what’s been glued.

We can take our postures back… that’s right… we can bring sexy back!

Here’s where to start

When you are forced to sit, sit more actively.

One thing I have all my patients do when they are sitting for long periods is take a moment every 30 minutes or so and sit at the edge of their chair.

Beginning with an upright posture move to a slightly slouched position then move to an overcorrected slouched position, then go back to a slightly slouched position and back to an over corrected slouch.

I recommend repeating this ten times and doing it every 30 minutes that you sit.

You can think of this as a seated cat camel/cow exercise.

This does a lot for activating the back muscles and encouraging blood flow to muscles that typically get very dry and elongated from prolonged sitting.

The real benefit in this exercise is spinal health.

Since we are constantly slouching and bending forward it’s important that we bend back to unglue what’s been glued from sitting so much.

Remember this… when we sit for long periods and fall into a slouched posture we move from a normal S-shaped spine to a C-shaped spine.

This is like the foundation of a house collapsing.

If the foundation goes so does everything else.

In the same way if we lose our natural anatomical position which is a neutral spine then everything else will be out of alignment.

The head will protrude, the shoulders will protract and internally rotate, the pelvis will tilt backwards and various muscles will be shortened or lengthened as a consequence of this.

Start with the spine… it makes fixing everything else easier.

Notice what you’re feeling.

It’s not JUST that we’re always sitting… it’s that we don’t pay much attention to what our body is saying to us while were sitting.

So often when we are working or driving we’ll pay more attention to the external environment and our work than our internal bodies and what’s trying to say to us.

If you practice FEELING your body and noticing what areas are comfortable and what areas are not comfortable you can usually figure out a better position to be in.

For instance you may notice that when your driving in traffic you’ll grab the wheel a little harder or your shoulders will elevate just a bit.

That just creates more tension in your muscles which further pulls your body out of it’s natural alignment.

This applies to all movement, not just sitting.

I sometimes notice when I’m cutting vegetables I will unnecessarily squeeze my shoulders up even though it’s inefficient and not needed at all.

There should be an ease and lightness to movement and we should only contract our muscles to the degree that it’s needed, everything else is wasted energy.

The big take away here is pay attention to what your feeling.

Be at least as interested in the internal as you are to the external.

Go here to watch the Sitting Solution Video

Move often and walk.

This one is obvious but it’s perhaps the most important.

If you do nothing else at least get up and walk around every 45-60 minutes.

About 5 minutes of walking is fine and it will help you become more creative and productive in your work.

If you step away and reframe your situation more frequently you’ll see a clearer solution to what you’re working on.

Also… the body doesn’t like to be sedentary for too long.

It likes to flow and move.

Our ancestors walked 5-6 miles a day and many of us are lucky if we take 2000 steps a day due to modern transportation and the workspace.

Take breaks to walk while you’ve been sitting but also try to incorporate it when you’re out of the office.

About 20-30 minutes of walking a day is extremely beneficial for your health.

Address musculoskeletal imbalances.

For most people who sit all day this is going to mean stretching your chest muscles, extending your spine, stretching your hip flexors and hamstrings and extending your hip.

Along with this we should ensure that we are strong and stable with the muscles that hold us up.

This is commonly referred to as the posterior chain which has been neglected by conventional exercise due to mirrors.

We’ve been busy doing bench presses and sit ups which only further exacerbate a flexed/slouched position.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t do those things but they shouldn’t take priority over lifts like the back squat, deadlift and overhead press.

If you don’t know what those are I highly suggest you seek out a qualified coach who can teach you and progress you appropriately.

I hope the above gives you some insights and tips on ways you can address a sitting environment.

I truly feel this is a missing piece to the puzzle when it comes to health and I want to help create more awareness around this.

We are starting to figure out what we as humans are designed for with whole food meats, veggies, some fruit, a little starch, good fats, sunshine, low stress, play and sleep.

It’s clear we are not designed for loads of sugar, toxic fats, modern wheat and process/refined foods.

I’d like to add sitting to that list and be a part of the solution.

If you’d like more support in helping you manage your sitting environment we created a pretty sweet exercise routine that walks you through exercises that you can do every hour on the hour to specifically address the problems we face with sitting.

This is a routine I’ve used with thousands of patients and who have experienced great results with it.  I hope it does the same for you!

Now that you know the root of the issue, if you are in pain and ready for The Solution then your next step is to go HERE.

P.S. I’ll be speaking at the Paleof(x) symposium on this very subject in Austin, TX this April!

View my speaker profile here, and get more information on the event here. We’d love to see you there!

Photo ofChad Walding
Chad Walding
Job Title
Doctor of Physical Therapy
The Paleo Secret

3 Responses

  1. Jennifer says:

    What about using a stability ball instead of an office chair?

    • chad.walding says:

      Hey Jennifer,

      It’s definitely better than a typical chair which encourages more of a slouched position. A stability ball will make your more aware of your posture and demand you to stabilize your midline. It’s still important to do some specific things to compensate sitting such as stretch your hip flexors, hamstrings and pecs. You should extend the hip, low back, thoracic spine and cervical spine. You should also strengthen your upper back (specifically muscles that retract the shoulder blades), and hip extensors…lots of stuff to consider but you’re moving in the right direction!

  2. Scott Rewick says:

    great article! Thanks Chad!

Leave a Reply