Sitting is the New Death

(APETITE4LIFE) Cyndie Burkhardt, October 12, 2018 — A year ago major news outlets around the world reported on a new study that proclaimed sitting to be the new death. Two key points stood out: increased sedentary time was linked to early death by any cause and, the negative effects of sitting were the same regardless of your age, sex, race, BMI, or even exercise habits. I thought the headline was the stupidest thing I’d ever read. How could my life expectancy—given a daily dose of weight training, yoga, Pilates, or triathlon sports—be compared to a couch potato just because I worked at a desk? There was no way my active lifestyle wasn’t forging resilient pathways to health, fitness, and longevity. After all, that was the whole point.

A few months later my right bicep and shoulder started to hurt. The pain became constant and it restricted my fitness and disrupted my sleep. When my left side hurt too I finally addressed it. A doctor’s visit confirmed that I had an impingement. “Shoulder impingement is very common, and can be exacerbated by your body’s position and posture,” says Dr. Ron Noy. As he demonstrated on a skeleton what happens, I had a sinking feeling. I had spent the better part of the year working long hours at a desk. As I visualized myself hunched over, becoming part of the furniture, long day after long day, that stupid “sitting is the new death” message couldn’t have rung louder inside my head. Here I was—me!—proof of the study.


As a kid, my mother would send me off to school chanting “stand tall, shoulders back, tummy in, chin up!” and I proudly marched on. I always thought I had good posture but as I started paying attention to my sitting (and standing) habits I realized just how much and how often I was bending forward. “We all tend to hunch over these days typing on computers and texting on phones,” says Noy. “This causes forward rotation of the shoulder blades, which causes the acromion (top part of the shoulder) to tilt forward decreasing the space available for the rotator cuff. As the pectoralis minor tendon contracts and tightens, this position starts to occur even when we are not sitting anymore. Raising the arm up then pinches the cuff against the acromion, causing pain.” No wonder my body ached. For most of my waking hours the muscles in my neck, shoulders, and back were going in the wrong direction. My chest muscles were tight and it felt like my spine was caving in.