Is Sitting The New Smoking with Chad and Brenda Walding?

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Jonathan: Hey everybody, Jonathan Bailor, back with another SANE show and really excited about today’s show because we have two real specific and interesting experts with us today. I wanted to bring them on the show because if you’re a long time listener of the show, you know that the biggest positive transformation I’ve experienced over the past six months has to do with my shoulders and back. I was having excruciating pain to the point where I was taking really high dose Ibuprofen, so, 800 milligrams of Ibuprofen three to four times a day, which is obviously horrible for you to just manage the pain so I could work.

Then I said, I’ve tried everything else, so I’m going to try standing at my desk and I thought it was dumb. I was — this is stupid, it’s not going to work, it’s a fad, and you can still see even today I have a bunch of books stacked up on my desk. I don’t have an official standing desk, but it has been completely transformational for me. It has eliminated all of my pain and I wanted to learn a bit more about how that’s even possible, so I wanted to bring some experts on the show to explain that and those experts are wonderful doctors of physical therapy. They’re spine specialists and they’re just good folks, Chad Walding and Brenda Walding, welcome to the show.

Brenda: Hi, thanks for having us.

Chad: Thanks for having us Jonathan, it’s good to be here.

Jonathan: Well, again, thank you so much for joining me today and I know you guys have spent years, and years, and years basically understanding why my pain went away almost miraculously and I’m hoping you can just unpack that a little bit.

Chad: Yeah, absolutely. So, that’s what we do is we see people who have pain that you were having in their back and their shoulders and their neck, see a lot of herniated discs and bulging discs. These people — they don’t come to us because they had got in some traumatic accident. It’s not because they got hit by a football player or something like that. It’s just that they sit all day. That’s like 95 — I’d say almost 98 percent of the people that we see it’s because of chronic sitting and it’s these poor positions that we’re placing ourselves in. We’re naturally, as humans, designed to be upright. Our shoulders are supposed to be back. Our core is supposed to be engaged. We’re supposed to have these nice strong gluteal muscles and our ankles are supposed to be mobile, but we live in a culture that from day one put us in chairs and we started molding our bodies to these kinds of flexion based positions. You can go to the elderly homes and really see an exaggeration of this where the spine is sort of in that C-shape position and you’ll see heads that are relatively very protruded forward relative to the body and shoulders that internally rotate and hips that kind of get compromised in some way. The pelvis will tilt forward, it will tilt backwards, but everything’s getting sort of shut off and certain muscles get tight, certain muscles get weak and then we go moving about that way and it’s kind of like driving down the road with your tires not aligned. Everything is going to start wearing and tearing very quickly, so when you go from that sitting position and you stand up, you’re moving in the right direction, because you’re no longer forcing your spine to be in that C-shaped position where the rest of the body starts to have pain.

Jonathan: So, Chad and Brenda, clearly we have not just started sitting, so I would imagine that some level of sitting – it’s not as if we should fear sitting. Should we be concerned about the amount of sitting we’re doing?

Brenda: Yeah. So, there’s actually a lot of research that’s come out lately really bringing awareness to the negative consequences of chronic sitting and so when we talk about sitting being a problem, it’s when we’re sitting six to eight hours a day, day after day after day.

So, as physical therapists, we’ve always seen and realized that chronic sitting increasing, risk of acute and chronic pain, loss of function, functional mobility, but what the most recent research lately is showing that it’s also connected to development of chronic disease conditions such as obesity, heart disease, Type 2 Diabetes and cancer, as well as research studies showing poor postures as negatively impacting our emotions, behaviors and hormone levels, so there’s a whole slew of negative consequences associated with six to eight hours of chronic sitting day after day.

Jonathan: It’s really helpful to understand that threshold. So, six to eight hours per day, so we shouldn’t necessarily say it’s family movie night, throw the couch away –

Brenda: No –

Jonathan: You have to stand up and watch the movie. It’s six to eight hours a day.

Chad: Right. We have to be reasonable. We have to be reasonable and a standing desk is definitely moving in the right direction. We don’t want to tell everybody they have to get a standing desk, so we have more general guidelines. Get up and move about — if you’re working, every 45 minutes and move for a period of 2 to 4 minutes and that prevents stagnation because that’s really the issue here is that stagnation, not moving — the blood flow of the contraction, the muscles, everything moving around internally. That’s what’s creating an environment for all those kinds of diseases to set in and then you have to take into mind adaptation of the position that their body is getting molded into and if you move every 45 minutes for a period of 2 to 4 minutes you can do a lot of things to unglue those negative effects.

Jonathan: So, it sounds like if I understand correctly, we don’t have to, although, I personally would recommend if you can — working at a standing desk at least some of the day, but it sounds like we don’t have to do that. We could take these movement breaks once an hour for a lack of better terms just to get the blood flowing, just to keep our body actually in not a static state.

Brenda: Yes, and what we we’re talking about is that even though a standing desk is a good option, but even subtly that head is still migrating forward, the shoulders are still coming forward a bit as you reach forward and you’re typing in your computer. So, what we’re trying to bring awareness to is this issue of adaptation Chad briefly mentioned and adaptation is just in this particular (Inaudible 00:06:36) is certain muscles when we are in these positions, sustained positions, whether it be sitting for long periods of time or even standing for long periods of time at a desk, there are certain muscles that are going to get weak and elongated and certain muscles that are going to get tighter, certain joints that are going to get restricted.

So, when we’re moving for every 45 minutes for that 2 to 4 minute interval, we recommend that people are doing specific movements, specific intentional movements to combat the negative effects that the musculoskeletal effects that occur from chronic sitting in this position. So, there is certain things that we know from head-to-toe that are getting tight or weak and there are certain exercises that can be done to negate that. So, instead of just standing — standing is great — getting up and walking is great, but there is also some key things that you can do to prevent that – the negative consequences long term.

Jonathan: Now you got me all excited. Now we got to understand. What is this magic movement that you speak of?

Brenda: Well, I mean there’s multiple involved and that’s kind of what Chad and I will be talking about in our upcoming book, “The Sitting Solution,” but we have over 40 different movements that we want to teach people. There are certain things – just understanding and becoming aware of what the patterns and what the habits are and what the muscles that you need to address, and knowing the movements to counteract that is what is necessary for us to tackle this problem and the full capacity that needs to be tackled in.

Jonathan: Well, certainly we don’t have time to dig into all 40 of those movements that cover your entire book, which I personally am very excited to check out, but can we give maybe a little tease, a little sample –

Brenda: Yeah.

Jonathan: A little taste of the audience so three things that if you’ve got some neck or some upper back or some lower back pain and you’re sitting a lot today try these three things.

Chad: Okay, so we’ll start out with something with the spine. Like I said, the thoracic spine is really the area that if you focus on that, it’s the one thing that makes everything else in terms of making your mobility better, much easier and oftentimes unnecessary. So, when I say thoracic spine, I’m talking about the middle of the back. That’s the base of the neck going all the way down to the kind of the top of the low back where you see that curve coming back in.

So, here’s an easy thing you can do. This is a thoracic extension stretch. So, in the seated position or the standing position, you can take your hands and put them behind your head and then take your elbows forward and point them forward and then before you do anything, squeeze your glutes and squeeze your stomach. If you’re standing, you’ll have to squeeze your glutes. If you’re sitting, you can just think about squeezing your stomach. Then, take your elbows to the ceiling and extend back as much as you can. You can actively retract back as far as you can. What that does is you’re bending your spine the opposite direction than it’s typically been doing its entire life. When we’re texting on our phones, typing in the computer, we’re always bending forward. We want to do some things to bend it back in order to regain that mobility that it’s naturally designed to have. When you do that, everything else is automatically going to be in a better position, the neck, the shoulders, you’ll have less stress, you’ll be able to put your pelvis in a better position. So, that’s a very simple, simple thing right there.

Jonathan: So, Chad before we move on to number two, just a quick question because I’m trying to do this in the studio right now. Are my fingers interlocked behind my head?

Brenda: Yes.

Chad: Yes.

Jonathan: Okay.

Chad: Yes.

Jonathan: Okay, am I pulling on my head? What kind of force am I exerting on the back of my head?

Chad: None.

Brenda: None.

Chad: You’re not pulling, you’re actively – you’re just putting them there. Another thing is some people have shoulder issues. They can just put the palm of their hands on top of their head. The key here is to point the elbows forward because what that does it clears the scapula away from — the shoulder blades away from the ribcage and allows you to extend back. You don’t want to pull down. It’s more just to think about looking up and try to get your chest and face pointed towards the ceiling as much as you can.

Jonathan: I like that. I appreciate that clarification because I can’t tell you how many times you see folks that are doing old school classic sit ups and they’ve got the hands behind their head and it looks like they’re going to rip their head off and I’m like, oh, my goodness. So, we don’t want to do that here –

Brenda: No pulling. No pulling on the neck. It’s just resting your hands back. You’re mostly thinking about looking up and trying to get the tip of your nose pointing straight up to the ceiling and it’s actually good. That’s how we measure — that’s how we kind of look and see how much thoracic extension mobility someone has and see how far they can get their nose up, if they can get all the way pointed up towards the ceiling and most times, some people can move only an inch, they’re so stuck, especially you can see older people, they basically become stuck in that flex position. It’s a good thing to be doing every single day, multiple times a day.

Chad: Since you mentioned sit ups, we’ll go into something that you can do to strengthen your core. It’s a good thing you brought that up because people are always putting their spines in a C-shape position and conventionally when we work out when we go to the gym and when we do sit ups or we hop on the elliptical, or we hop on the bike, we tend to work out in positions that still have us in that flexion C-shape position. So, it makes things worse over time. It’s like we’re trying to mold our bodies in positions that are not designed for us.

So, there are better ways to strengthen the mid-line and really it’s about activating the mid-line. So, you can what I call a hard style plank, so you can get on the floor, and then go ahead and prop up on your elbows, lift your hips off the floor, have your feet together and this is where you can make it really intense. So, think about squeezing your legs straight as hard as you can. Think about bringing your kneecaps up towards your hips and then squeeze your glutes as hard as you can and now bring your belly button towards your spine and contract that as hard as you can and the next step is to think about bringing your elbows towards your feet. So, you’re going to pull into the ground and bring them towards your feet and you’re going to feel your entire body just contracting. The key here is to learn how to hold that contraction and still breathe, right? So, still be able to rotate your head side-to-side. So, that’s a global contraction and it’s a great thing to do if you have room. Not all people have room, but if you do have room in your workspace, doing it throughout the day because you’re turning on so many muscles that get turned off as a consequence of sitting, particularly the glutes and the core, which is so critical in terms of our movement and our function and mobility.

Jonathan: Chad and Brenda, I feel like if we get like a techno-hip-hop baseline playing in the background of this podcast we might have a pretty popular hip hop song here because all of this, get on the floor, squeeze your glutes, ya-ya-ya, we’re half way there I feel –

Chad: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Jonathan: And we’d be healthier.

Brenda: That sounds great.

Chad: That’s how it is in the clinic and the gym. We try to get people who are feeling their bodies as much as they can.

Brenda: Feel your body.

Chad: And start to wake up.

Jonathan: I like it. So, let’s do one more. Let’s do one more.

Chad: So, one more. We’ll do a chin retraction or a chin tuck. There’s two ways to call it. So, this is to fix the forward head. So, we talked about most people because their thoracic spines are so kyphotic and bent forward, their heads are automatically going to be forward and it’s going to cause a lot of pain, but also a lot of lack of range of motion over time, so –

Brenda: And headaches. It’s going to be a really big issue for chronic headaches, especially musculoskeletal origin.

Chad: Yeah, this is why people take the Ibuprofen every day, right? So, you want to sit up or stand up as tall as you can. This is another mobilization of your spine. So, you always want to be as tall as you can. You’re going to keep your chin parallel to the ground and then go ahead and retract it back. You can think about pushing, taking your middle finger and your index finger and pushing on your chin back as far as you can. You’re almost going to make a double chin. You may even feel some snaps and some pops and those are restrictions that you’re breaking through in your neck. Then you’re just going to go back to the starting position and again. Press back as far as you can. The key here is to not really look up. Make sure your chin stays parallel to the ground to get that even movement that the neck is designed to have. So, those three things right there will get you off to the right start for sure.

Jonathan: Chad and Brenda, I really think this can be empowering for people because so often exercise and physical movement is perceived as I call it the chain saw model of exercise, where it’s just like varoom-varoom, like let’s just freaking punish your body and it’s almost whipping yourself into shape. Think of the analogies we use. They’re like violent and destructive and what we’re talking about here is really stuff that anyone can do anywhere and it will change the way they feel and function 24/7. Is that fair?

Brenda: Yes. A lot of these exercises that we’re utilizing on these two to four minute intervals are things that we often talk, especially the spinal exercises – we call them spinal hygiene exercises because they’re just things that you should be doing every day just like brushing your teeth, combing your hair, just taking care of your body and taking care of your spine. You don’t have to have a 45 minute window or an hour window to go work out and keep your body healthy in terms when we’re talking about addressing the negative consequences of sitting. We’re not saying stop working out. There are definitely benefits from working out, but there are simple things that you can do to get your body feeling better and to negate the negative effects of chronic sitting, which is something that a majority of people in this country do. That’s definitely important.

Jonathan: This is extremely helpful and I can just tell that all of our listeners are probably craving — I hope to god there’s going to be some pictures — and something like that because they’re probably– wait, do I get on my elbows, bend over in front and touch your toes. So, what is next for you guys? Tell us more about this book, tell us more about where we can learn and get more pictures involving how to do this.

Chad: Yes, so the “Sitting Solution” is essentially like our life’s work. We’ve been working on it for the past nine months. We’re taking everything we’ve known from being in the clinic and really coaching people on these movements and like Brenda mentioned, come up with over 48 movements. We do have instructional videos and then demonstrations for everything. So, basically what we’re doing is we’re taking these movements and then combining them and creating little workout routines that people can do throughout the day every 45 minutes and we’ve created five different routines that meet the needs of every workspace scenario.

So, some people may work in a cubicle where they don’t have much room and they can’t quite get on the floor. Some people may work in a private office and they do and they have a wall and a little bit more space. Some people may work from home and they can do whatever the heck they want to do and they can use things like resistance bands and kettle bells and foam rolls and trigger point balls and then some people are traveling a lot and they’re forced to sit for long periods of time so they need to take a little extra time when they’re done traveling to unglue a lot of the things that sitting for that long has done to them. So, we try to think about every possible scenario and use all the best movements that we knew and we researched and came up with “The Sitting Solution,” so we’re super excited about it and we just can’t wait to share it with the world really.

Brenda: Yeah, the book launch is on October 13th, and you can check it out at sittingsolution.com.

Jonathan: This is incredibly exciting and I think it will really expand people’s minds too. You guys are doctors of physical therapy – a lot of people have not been fortunate enough to ever work with a physical therapist and their only perception of someone who is like a physical therapist is say, Jillian Michaels, and I can tell you, that is not what a physical therapist does. Physical therapists are freaking neurobiologists, but for your spine. I mean this is a hard core science. This is breaking the body down into its most fundamental mechanical elements and really doing things that are transformative and not punitive and can be done anywhere and I just think it’s really exciting. I think so many people don’t even realize that that area of movement and that possibility is available to them.

Chad: Right. Right.

Brenda: Yeah, we talk about in our book as it being a blind spot in the health equation because we really feel we’re aware of diet and exercise being important and sleep, things like that, but especially with the current research coming out, this is really becoming a huge health issue. Like you said, you were experiencing chronic pain and you were starting to take Ibuprofen and we have people that have chronic pain issues and they go down that downward spiral of pain medications that cause side effects and surgeries and a lifetime of chronic pain that’s very disabling and financially draining and emotionally draining. So, I mean it really is a huge issue and especially now that we’re talking about being linked to chronic disease conditions, heart disease and cancer. It’s a big area that needs to be addressed and I think that it’s really important that we bring awareness to it and we provide solutions.

Jonathan: Well, Chad and Brenda, this is certainly exciting and I’m very, very excited to let our listeners know that they can go to sittingsolution.com to get more information, but even better, if you are signed up to get email updates from sanesolution.com, there’s so many solutions, I’m overwhelmed with solutions. If you haven’t gone to sanesolution.com and signed up for email updates, please do so because then you will be getting a free bonus guide that’s going to help you get started right out of the gate with these types of movements. So, that’s going to be really exciting, but of course if you don’t want that, you can just go to sittingsolution.com, but sitting solution, SANE solution, go to both of the solutions and solve all of your problems all at once, right?

Chad: That’s right.

Brenda: Right.

Chad: That’s right.

Jonathan: I love it. Well Chad and Brenda, this is absolutely fabulous. I so appreciate you sharing your time with us and putting all of the effort that you put into sitting solution into it because I really think it’s going to help a lot of people.

Brenda: All right, thanks for having us. We appreciate it.

Chad: Thanks so much Jonathan.

Jonathan: Well, listeners, I hope you enjoyed this show as much as I did. Again, our guests today are the delightful, Chad and Brenda Walding. They are doctors of physical therapy and spine specialists and co-creators of “Sitting Solution,” which you can check out at sittingsolution.com, or you can just keep an eye on your inbox, because I will send you some free bonuses with regards to “Sitting Solution,” which is cool since it’s been so personally helpful for me. So, that is all good and remember, this week and every week after, stay SANE. Chat with you soon.