Sitting Too Much? These 3 Tips Can Help

Dagmar Munn avatar

by Dagmar Munn |

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ALS life sure involves a lot of sitting. Although I keep myself busy with daily projects, most of what I do has me sitting at a computer. Added to that, I sit when eating meals, watching TV, riding in our van, and riding my mobility scooter. That’s a whole lot of sitting!

I’ll be the first to admit that the symptoms of ALS make being physically active a challenge. I can’t take a break to walk, use a standing desk, or sit on a yoga ball. Instead, I use the following three essential daily moves to help make sitting in a chair better for my body and mind.

Scooch back — way back

I used to think the correct way to sit was perching on the edge of the chair and forcing my back to be tall and straight. But it’s a challenging position to hold for any length of time. My back muscles quickly felt tired and soon the healthy S-curve of my spine melted into a C-curve as my body dropped into a slumped slouch.

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Spending the whole day sitting in a slouch is easy — and addictive — but not good for our body and brain. It can lead to shallow breathing, neck and back pain, weakened muscles, lethargy, and plain old foggy thinking.

The proper way to sit involves scooting the hips all the way to the back of the chair. Knees can fall open and our back is resting on the back of the chair. Even though my computer chair is labeled ergonomic, I put a firm pillow near my lower to middle back to help maintain my spine’s natural S-curve.

Take a breath

Because most people with ALS experience breathing difficulties somewhere along the course of their disease, it’s important to pay attention to how we’re breathing during long bouts of sitting.

Sometimes when I’m immersed in a serious internet search, I discover I’ve been holding my breath. That’s my cue to stop, let the air out, inhale slowly, and return to taking calm, even breaths.

When I used to teach yoga classes, many first-time students thought a deep inhalation began by lifting their shoulders up to their ears. Instead, I had them practice keeping their shoulders relaxed and down. The focus should be on expanding the lower lungs and moving the rib cage out sideways.

It’s done the same way when sitting.

Practicing correct sitting along with relaxed breathing has also helped me speak more clearly and have a stronger voice. More of my breathing tips can be found in this column.

Reach out

Sitting motionless reduces blood flow to our arms and legs, increases swelling, and weakens the muscles. But too often I lost track of time and forgot to take a break to get up and move around the house. I end up with swollen ankles and achy knees. Now, I keep a small timer near my computer. Every time it goes off, I perform a simple routine such as this one:

  • Sliding my hips forward to the front edge of the chair (it’s OK when doing these exercises), I look up, look side to side, and then twist to look all the way behind me.
  • I reach my arms up and pretend to climb a rope, hand over hand.
  • Then I stretch my legs forward and flutter kick my feet.
  • Finally, I scooch my hips back and return to a correct, well-supported sitting posture. A deep cleansing breath has me ready to tackle the next project that awaits.

Does having ALS cause you to sit more? Try a few of my essential moves, and you’ll be on your way to learning how to live well while living with ALS.

Note: ALS News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of ALS News Today or its parent company, Bionews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to ALS.


Ben Flowe avatar

Ben Flowe

I had low expectations for this article, Dagmar, because I've had ALS for 7 years and have to sit in my power chair when not lying down or doing PT (with assistance 2x a week). But with adaptaions, I can do all of these. I have to remember that the power chair can help me scoot back by pushing the buttons to lean back all the way and get my legs up as much as I can. They get me back in the chair lying down, and gravity helps if I'm patient. The other two are more straightforward, though I lost the ability to speak years ago.
pALS learn to adapt. Reminders help.

Dagmar Munn avatar

Dagmar Munn

Ben, thank you for your comment... and honesty.
No matter how fast or slow our ALS symptoms progress, we still have our physical bodies to take care of. Proper positioning, breathing, adjustment of positions, and, movement are needed daily. It's great you are able to have PT twice a week too. And, now you have my reminders to help you help your body on the other 5 days. Keep adapting my friend! Best wishes to you.

christine avatar


Hi Dagmar,
How often does your timer go off? Just trying to get a gauge of what intervals you're scheduling movement breaks.

Dagmar Munn avatar

Dagmar Munn

My timer is set at one hour, then I do the mini-routine listed in the article. If I've been sitting for 3 hours, then I get up and move through the house for at least 15-minutes. Examples here:

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