The 'S' Word

The 'S' Word

I once saw a comparison between three MRI scans of 3 different persons, 2 of them were elderly people. One of them had an athlete for most of his life and the third one was a 34 years old athlete. To my surprise, the MRIs of the athletes showed the same shape and composition of the quadriceps muscles while the third person who happened to be less active than the first two ones revealed an wasted muscle with unhealthy fatty depositions between the muscle layers. The lesson I took from this comparison was to stay active.

Now let’s get real on the ‘S’ word; the S stands for sedentary which is an umbrella word that encompasses unhealthy life styles from not eating properly to not doing enough activities or taking the car or elevators all the time instead of walking or taking the stairs or commonly spending many hours slouching in front of a computer, staring at the screen trying to write a piece for the clinic where you work. To understand the effect of conducting a sedentary life style on the deterioration of your own health and fitness level, let’s consider examining what a usual everyday activity like sitting in front of the computer can do to your body.

While slouching in front of the computer, the position is putting a lot of undue strain on the shoulder blades and lower back muscles which are required to work their hardest to support this grinding unpleasant posture. With spending many hours in the same position, the muscles start to get fatigued and becomes tensed which impairs the flow of blood within the muscles which lead to rise of ischemic pain in the muscles and the development of trigger points within the muscles. These trigger points feel like a small band of fibres under your fingers and they are usually tender to touch. Moreover, when a trigger points becomes active, it can refer (send) pain to other sites in the body; for example trigger points of the shoulder blade muscles can refer pain to your elbow.

Another consequence of slouching is stiffening of the muscles on the front of the chest i.e. the Pectoral muscles. Shortening of these muscles can lead to poor mechanics of the shoulder while moving, in addition to putting the neck in poor postures. This can lead to tension building in the neck muscles and associated problems especially neck related headache which can be very disabling. Also, slouching puts more pressure and strain at the front than the back and can the lumber spine structures and can cause low back pain. In general, most of the musculoskeletal problems seen in outpatient clinics are related to improper postures with their resultant loss of strength and flexibility.

But how can staying active help us prevent all the consequences of the infamous ‘S’ word? By staying active and keeping an appropriate level of activities you can maintain good muscle strength and endurance thus decreasing the fatigue muscles might experience. Also, by paying attention to how you use your body while moving and sitting you can decrease the strain on the body and consequently the demand on the muscles. As a motto, prevention is always the best first line of defence against pain and injury. More importantly, taking long walks for example can diminish the level of deconditioning that comes with conducting a sedentary life style could have on the body.

Here are some perks of staying active all the time:
  • Taking a long walk now and then can decrease the level of the knee pain especially with those suffering from knee osteoarthritis.
  • Taking the stairs and not the elevator can strengthen your lower leg muscles and thus decrease fatigue.
  • Going for a short run three times a week, can increase the level of metabolism and burn that extra slice of pizza you had to eat without feeling guilty about your summer body.
  • Installing a fitness app on your phone can help you work out whenever you can and on your own terms without worrying about your busy schedule and thus you can achieve the body figure you want to see in your night out selfies.
  • A cool effect of exercising it the release of endorphins in the brain after working out and this hormone is known as being the hormone of happiness. Who doesn’t want some happiness in their life now and then?!!
  • Finally doing sports and staying active is an investment in your cardiorespiratory fitness level and eventually a means to help you enjoying a longer life with less stress and no pain.