Dear Freddie Fans,
I’m a sit expert and here to teach you how to stop sitting like a nut (literally and probably figuratively) . . . a cashew nut, and sit like me.
My human authority is Naomi Khan who knows what she’s talking about cuz she’s a spine surgeon. She told me that most humans tend to round out their backs when they sit. When your spine is in an improper position you’ll tend to have more back problems. Listen to me!
Sitting like a cashew nut can damage the disks in your spine that act like little shock absorbers. This can cause the disks to degenerate, or for one side to bulge. It can push against nerves, causing pain, or even rupture. Ouch!
You can protect your disks by straightening the cashew.
Jean Sherer (another of my authorities) says your culture focuses on trying to stick out your chest (which might make you think you’re important) but doesn’t help your back. Stop sticking your chest out and change the position of your pelvis, or butt.
Sherer says to imagine you have a tail like a dog. The tail would be right at the base of your spine.
“When you sit with a C shape in your spine, you’re sitting on this tail,” Sherer says. “It’s kind of like a dog with its tail between its legs, who is scared.” (Obviously, Sherer has never been a dog and is taking her metaphor a bit too far.)
To straighten your back, imagine you need to wag your tail:
- Bend the right way as you sit (we all bend somewhere when we sit).
- Untuck your tail.
- Bend at the waist. Where you bend is important because where you bend determines how you will sit.
- Bend at the hips and you will be able to wag your tail. And make your back happy.
Sherer has a trick to do this:
- “Stand up and spread your heels about 12 inches apart,”
- Put your hand on your pubic bone — like a fig leaf covering up Adam in the Bible
- “When you bend over, you want to let this fig leaf — your pubic bone — move through your legs,” This creates a crease between your pelvis and legs.”
- This action also pretty much pokes your butt out, behind your spine.
- “Now go ahead, sit down,” This puts your butt behind your spine.
- Next, relax the back and chest muscles-do not stick out your chest, Your spine will line up like a straight stack of bricks. This will even let some of your leg muscles relax more.
“If you do this properly you will feel your hamstrings stretch and your quads relax. There should be a little curve at the lower part of your spine. You will put much less stress on your spine.”
Did hunter-gatherers sit less than we do?
A few years ago, anthropologist David Raichlen and colleagues decided to find out if (modern) hunter -gatherers sit less than most modern day people. They studied the Hazda, who live primarily off wild foods, such as tubers, honey and barbecued porcupines. The researchers strapped heart-rate monitors onto nearly 50 Hadza adults for eight weeks and measured how often each day, they were just sat. The results were shocking.
They sat about 10 hours a day. Americans sit 9 to 13 hours each day, on average, (a study reported in 2016).
Still, Hadza don’t have the back issues that Americans have, even when they are older. “There hasn’t been a ton of studies looking into muscle and joint pain in the Hadza groups, but people are highly active across the life span. There are some declines in activity with age but nowhere near what you get in the U.S.” Raichlen says.
Not how much, but how we sit
So maybe the problem that creates back pain isn’t how much you humans sit, but how you sit?
“Sit up straight,” doesn’t mean to stick your chest out. Instead, stick your “tail” out, like me.
Freddie Parker Westerfield, S.E.E.
Sit Expert Extraordinaire