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Sitting can affect your health
The number of young athletes complaining of back pain is alarmingly high. Many a time, it is related to the lack of a proper stretch routine combined with overuse and/or faulty mechanics. Despite the frequency of occurrence, such complaints by youngsters should always never be taken lightly, always seriously.
Back pain is irrespective of the risk level of the sport as it can happen in low risk sports like golf as well as it can in high risk sports like gymnastics. Professional cricketers have fallen victim to major back injury as well making this injury as nondiscriminatory as any other.
When dealing with youths in particular, it is of utmost importance to rule out the possibility of structural compromise as with spondylolisthesis. Such injuries require major intervention to prevent further damage to the body and require time away from the sport. In all cases of back pain however, athletes should return to sport gradually and released completely when they are pain-free.
In a less directly sport-related note, one of the more subtle, contributing culprits of back pain is the seated position, in which we humans are placed for many hours, daily. We sit in our car, in the classroom, at work, at meetings, to eat, to watch television, etc. In the U.S.A. the average person spend 9.3 hours of their waking day sedentary, which usually involves being seated. The harsh reality of this fact intensifies with every day that I am forced to sit in my car because of our congested traffic system. Forced to sit in one position for the duration of my role as driver, confined to the space of my seat and gas/brake pedals, I begin to feel restless, needing to change and adjust my seating as much as I can while fulfilling my role.
It is recommended that people move around from their desk during the day, to avoid being seated for hours on end. Aside from directly loading the spine when positioned upright, the hunched over position that eventually happens in some of us only serves to make matters worse as it further encourages the forward head posture. The Medical Billing and Coding organization in the U.S.A. is a huge advocate for reducing sitting time. On their website they post various facts about the harmful effects of sitting. (See list below)
To have a job that does not require one to stay in a single position for prolonged periods is a blessing. however, modern conveniences and technology have facilitated more comfortable and somewhat sedentary lifestyles creating the need to make exercise a more planned activity.
When I consider the fact that many of our athletes who represent us internationally are not full-time athletes but have jobs that they keep outside of training and game times in order to meet their bills and/or maintain a certain lifestyle, it amazes me that we are able to accomplish anything in any sport. In many cases, we don’t and just present ourselves as a little country that is just “happy to be here!” I sometimes imagine what could have been done with the money that went into that Tarouba landmark.
In any case, to all those serious athletes, serious parents of serious athletes, coaches, trainers, massage therapists, pay attention to the amount of time being spent in the seated position by your athlete and factor that in to your program/protocol of training or therapy.
Harmful effects of prolonged sitting and some ways it “wrecks” the body include:
Electric activity in the legs shuts off. Keep in mind that our entire body is controlled by our nervous system which operates via electrical impulses.
Calorie burning drops to one per minute. Enzymes that help break down fat drop by 90 per cent.
After two hours of sitting, good cholesterol drops 20 per cent.
After four hours of sitting, insulin activity drops 24 per cent. The logical side effect of which is an increased risk of developing diabetes.
Other physiological changes that happen from prolonged sitting include:
Tightened hamstrings, hip flexors and calves.
Tightened hip rotators which affect range of motion of the legs in the hip joint.
Limited lumber spine/lower back extension, particularly as slouching occurs with long duration.
Thoracic/upper back stiffening.
Rounded, elevated shoulders.
Asha De Freitas-Moseley is a certified athletic trainer with the National Athletic Trainers’ Association of the USA. She has over 10 years of experience working with athletes and other members of the active population, rehabilitating and returning them from injury to full play. She can be reached at 17 Henry Pierre Street, St James. Tel: 221-4237.
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