When sitting attacks: take a stand

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Chad Marien
  • 62nd Airlift Wing Inspector General
I recently attended a back class over at the Madigan Physical Therapy Clinic for a ruptured cervical disk. According to the clinic, one of the leading causes of back problems is sitting for long periods of time with bad posture. My job, not unlike many of you, entails sitting slumped over a computer reading e-mails, or as a pilot, flying for several hours without leaving my seat.

Posture has been a focus of mine since I was diagnosed with my back issue and I often catch myself slumped into my couch potato position. I try to actively focus on correcting the way I am sitting. In an article provided by the clinic, it suggests that you should have your monitor or paper you are reading positioned five to 15 degrees below your line of sight. Your head should be centered over your shoulders. The keyboard should be close enough to keep your shoulders back and your elbow bent at 90 degrees. You should adjust your arm rests to help support the weight of your arms. The chair should have a lumbar cushion. Your feet should rest flatly on the floor and your thigh should be parallel to the floor with your knees slightly higher than the hip joint.

According to the Madigan clinic, in addition to sitting with good posture, it is also paramount that we break up our sitting and stretch every 45 to 60 minutes as well as do some activity intermittently during our day. Building up the core muscle groups will help to maintain good posture.

There are many other issues with sitting too long. According to the article "Get Up Out of the Chair For a Longer Life," by Amy Andersen, an Australian study found that you are more likely to develop cardiac problems by sitting for more than four hours per day. You can also develop blood clots in the legs referred to as deep vein thrombosis. Many articles are written on the topic of not sitting for long periods of time.

If you are interested in improving your posture, and are looking for encouragement to get away from your chair, Joint Base Lewis-McChord has many resources available to you. There are many yoga and other strength and flexibility classes available at the various gyms. The Health and Wellness Center at McChord Field's new fitness annex just initiated a program called the HAWC WALK to encourage people to get out and walk. They will provide you with a free pedometer, while supplies last, and help you track your distance through a fun interactive computer program.

For more information on any of these programs, please contact your main gym for details. Please do yourself a favor and take a stand.