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Is sitting the new smoking?

Is sitting really so bad for me?  Or is sitting the new smoking?

Sitting is probably even worse for you than you think.  Are you reading this sitting down? Do you spend most of your day sitting at work, sitting in the car, on the train? For years we have known that sitting stresses the joints and discs of the spine enormously.  There is a strong link between sitting and back ache.  Now over the past few years a growing group of Scientists and Doctors is calling sitting the new smoking.  Not only bad for your spine, but bad for your health too.


First let us look at the impact of sitting on the spine and posture, then we will explore why sitting has such a negative impact on health overall.  Sitting loads the joints, muscles and discs in the lower back.  Compared to standing, sitting, even with good posture, increases the pressure in the discs of the spine by 40%. Sitting with bad posture sees this disc pressure 90% more than standing.

Accumulative pressure over hours and days causes micro-trauma to the cartilage rings surrounding the outside of the disc, called the annulus. Over time the annulus rings can develop tears, weakening the disc and making it vulnerable to a more serious issue- bulging of the disc.  A disc bulge happens usually when bending down, or lifting something, when the nucleus pulposus (the jelly like centre of the disc) squeezes through the torn rings of cartilage of the annulus. This is often called incorrectly “slipped disc”, but discs do not “slip”, they bulge.

This bulging disc can be very painful in the lower back and even more troublesome if it touches a nerve exiting the spine. When one of these nerve roots gets compressed or irritated by the disc, it causes a shooting pain in the leg, sometimes even tingling or numbness- this is often called sciatica.

beware of the chair

7 Steps to reduce back strain from sitting:

  1. Stand more, sit less.
  2. Stand up at least every 45minutes.
  3. Sit up tall like a soldier, do not slouch.
  4. Avoid low, soft sofas.
  5. Maintain the arch in the low back with a rolled up towel.
  6. When learning stand at a shtender.
  7.  Make a “standing desk” for work.

We can appreciate the negative impact of sitting on our spine and posture, but is sitting really so bad for our general health? Do you know that the Department of Health in England recommends adults have moderate exercise of at least 30minutes, 5 times a week.  Moderate exercise could be brisk walking, cycling, swimming, gardening, gym etc.

An Australlian diabetes research study coined the phrase “Active Couch Potato”.  This referred to people who did moderate exercise for the recommended total of 150minutes per week, but were mainly sitting the rest of the day.  Among these “Active Couch Potatoes” they found negative effects to blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar and other readings.  In other words, being sedentary all week continues to have negative health effects, even if one is doing moderate exercise 5 times a week.

The body is a moving machine that functions best when it is moving regularly.  Studies have shown that children who are taught standing up, rather than sitting down can score better in exams.  It seems even the brain might function better when the body is more active.

Move more and sit less with these steps:

  1. Walk rather than use the car.
  2. Take the stairs rather than the lift.
  3. Get off the bus or tube 1 stop earlier and walk the rest.
  4. Stand on the bus or tube for some of the way.
  5. Stand up when talking on the phone.


BOOST PHYSIO is a leading private physiotherapy practice with high street clinics across North West London.  We have 4 branches in the following areas:  .  Branches of our physiotherapy practice are in Cricklewood NW2, Hampstead NW3, Hendon NW4 and East Finchley N2. 

Our private physiotherapy clinics treat patients from all over North West London and North London. We provide same day physiotherapy treatment for sports injuries, neck and back pain.  Appointments are available 8am to 9pm and we even have Saturday and Sunday appointments available.

Patients come for physiotherapy from the following areas: Hendon NW4, Mill Hill NW7, Cricklewood NW2, Hampstead NW3, Kilburn NW6, Queens Park, Finchley Road, Golders Green NW11, Swiss Cottage and Willesden Green NW10.  Fortis Green, Muswell Hill, Highgate N6.

If you do have nay issues that need attention please book an appointment at one of our 4 High Street Physiotherapy clinics.

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BOOST PHYSIO works with major insurance companies like: BUPA, AVIVA, WPA, CIGNA and Simplyhealth. We usually deal directly with your insurance company.