Sitting Too Much? These 3 Tips Can Help
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.
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.
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.
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