As the human species evolved, we distanced ourselves from our animal ancestors by becoming hunters and gatherers. We roamed and foraged. The human body evolved for efficient running and walking long distances to accomplish these tasks. In fact we are so efficient at covering great distances that we can outrun animals in long distance races, as demonstrated in “man against horse” races. Tribes in Africa hunt communally by literally running an animal into the ground by forcing it to run for many miles without a break.
So it comes as no surprise that many of the problems that we suffer from in modern times come from the antithesis of ranging: sitting. In the golden age of the computer, we sit more and move less. Studies have shown that spine disc pressure can build to dangerously high levels with prolonged sitting and create wear and tear of the discs that is similar to what we see in a person working as a heavy construction laborer. We also know that the head goes from being weight neutral in an upright position to weighing 20 pounds with a slight forward tilt to 40 pounds with the typical forward head posture of an office worker. This amount of weight bearing down on the neck and shoulders can lead to neck disc injuries and more.
The good news is that much of this physical stress is avoidable. Regular exercise is crucial for maintaining the strength of the spinal posture muscles. The rule of thumb is that for every position that we spend time in, there needs to be an exercise that puts us in the opposite position. If we sit while at work, then much of the exercise performed needs to be upright. Because we sit slouched, the exercises that allow for arching of the spine and opening the chest need to be performed to counteract the negative effects of slouching. That being said, 8 hours of poor posture will always beat 30 minutes of the best exercise routine. Good sitting posture and correct workstation set-up are essential both at work and at home.