In our modern, fast paced world where sedentary lifestyles have increasingly become the norm, maintaining good posture while sitting is more important now than any other time in history. Many of our day-to-day activities revolve around desk work, extended screen time and sitting for prolonged periods. Thus, the consequences of poor sitting posture can be far reaching, affecting our physical wellbeing and overall health. At Functional Patterns we understand the significance of proper sitting posture for a healthier, more balanced life. In this article we cover how poor sitting posture can negatively impact your body, inform you on what proper sitting posture is and how to truly find proper sitting posture.
Consequences of poor sitting posture
There are several commonly known impacts of incorrect sitting posture such as pain, discomfort, and musculoskeletal issues. Sitting in poor positions can place excessive pressure on certain muscle groups, weaken others and disrupt the alignment of the spine. Over time this can lead to muscle imbalances, back pain, neck pain, reduced mobility, and even chronic conditions. According to recent studies, a staggering 80% of people experience back pain at some point in their lives, with prolonged sitting being a significant contributing factor (American Chiropractic Association). The inability of the body to function as it should whilst in inefficient positions has a domino-effect leading to a whole host of problems that span far wider than the obvious aches, pains and structural issues that relate to our bones, joints, muscles, and other connective tissues. The lesser-known consequences of poor sitting posture include headaches, reduced breathing, lethargy, circulation issues, eye strain, and decreased productivity - just to name a few.
What is the correct sitting posture?
Broadly speaking, good posture while sitting involves finding positions that align the skeleton in such a way that the head, neck, ribcage, and pelvis are vertically stacked. That is, each of these bony ‘units’ are positioned directly over the top of the one below, forming more or less a straight line in space (see picture below). This reduces the amount of effort required to hold our weight up against the constant force of gravity pulling us back down to the ground.
This idea of ‘vertical stacking’ is pretty simple to understand, however, the elephant in the room rarely spoken about is how to actually hold ourselves in these positions, particularly for extended periods of time. To do so, requires an understanding of how to create even, distributed tension across the entire body using your muscles, bones, and other connective tissues. Think of your muscles as a team in a workplace, for example. The team has a job to do, and each member has responsibilities that they must meet in order for the job to get done. If each team member does their job, the demand on any single person is reduced and the team can work effectively and efficiently with little wasted energy.
On the flip side however, a team with members who are injured, lazy or lack the necessary skills and know-how may still ultimately get the job done, but will place extra demand on individual team members leaving them tired and overworked. This is an inefficient team and will only last so long before something has to give. In the same way, a properly tensioned muscular system spreads the load (the demand from gravity and our daily activities) across many bodily structures, reducing strain and pressure on specific areas of the body which in turn allows for more efficient movement, improved circulation, and a more sustainable body overall. Learning how to do this requires a skillset that takes time and precision to appreciate as we’ll investigate below.
How do you address problems from poor sitting posture?
While you may feel the answer to this question pertains directly to the exact way in which you sit, this is not the root cause of the problem. Instead, we should take a step back and try to understand why your body may not be capable of creating and maintaining a good sitting posture to begin with.
At Functional Patterns, we prioritise addressing the absolute fundamentals of human movement first! That is, the functions that are most important to humans as an organism. According to leading research, they are: running, walking, standing, and throwing (Five Ways Humans Evolved to Be Athletes | Science| Smithsonian Magazine). Collectively, these have become known as the FP ‘Big Four’ movements.
By learning, identifying, and correcting your dysfunctions in these movements, you can build a body capable of handling just about any situation it encounters – including sitting for prolonged periods of time. Let’s extrapolate. Regardless of what specific ailment you may be looking to resolve, whether it be a better sitting posture, a pain-free overhead reach, or improved athletic movements like jumping, optimising the FP ‘Big Four’ movements means you will improve the entire movement spectrum. To break this down further: running with better form will help you jump more efficiently and learning to throw to a higher standard, for example, will improve your boxing capabilities. It seems that improvements in any of the FP ‘Big Four’ movements will help literally any other movement you can think of in some way as they form the basis of what it means to be a human in the first place.
By improving the way one executes the FP ‘Big Four’ movements, their body becomes familiar with the correct movement patterns and we discover people begin to intuitively find better positions on their own. In doing so, they are also armed with the knowledge of how and why finding these positions is important. For instance, understanding how to use the core during standing, walking, running, and throwing allows you to transfer this same skill and awareness of core activation to achieve better sitting posture.
It is through this approach that FP has helped people all across the world discover a good sitting posture, with numerous results and testimonials to back this claim. Such as Nyssa below who found relief in better standing and sitting postures as a byproduct of addressing the FP ‘Big Four’ movement (See pic below):
Beyond just movement, Functional Patterns aims to help you nourish your body in many other ways with respect to how it adapted throughout history, with regards to your behaviours surrounding your light environment, the sun, diet, water quality to name a few. To understand more of this bigger picture of Functional Patterns, please check out the following article on the FP website discussing a few other elements that influence our health beyond that of purely movement: Get Better Results With FP – Functional Patterns
From desk work, screen time, and leisure, sitting has become a major part of our modern lives. Quite often the first indication that something we’re doing is wrong is when we experience pain or discomfort. In terms of poor sitting posture, the body can raise alarm bells in several ways including headaches, back pain, neck pain and countless other signs and symptoms. These red flags should signal to us to prioritise correcting our most fundamental movements long before extensive damage is caused. Unfortunately, many suffer through the aches, pains and other conditions associated with poor seated positions, but this doesn’t have to be the case.
Suffice to say that when it comes to the human body, there is never just a simple, one-dimensional answer. Developing the ability to maintain good skeletal alignment and muscular tension throughout the body is imperative to eliminating and avoiding the consequences of poor sitting posture. Functional Patterns works to solve these problems at the root, by addressing these problems through the movements that matter most to humans – walking, running, standing, and throwing. As a result, people across the world are solving the problems they feel when sitting as a by-product of addressing their movement as a system. To learn more about the rationale of FP you can purchase the Power of Posture here: The Power of Posture Book – Functional Patterns or to get started, begin with the 10-week Online Course The 10-Week Online Program | Functional Patterns or for the ideal course of action, go to our practitioners map to find a trainer near you Find a Practitioner | Functional Patterns Worldwide.