The more you can replace a sedentary activity, like sitting, with an active one, the better your back pain will be. This is one reason why I recommend setting a goal of taking 10,000 steps a day – it helps keep you moving and gives you a concrete number to work toward. (This is in addition to your regular exercise program, not in place of it.)
If you work a desk job, you obviously must spend some time either sitting or standing, but this can often be interspersed with regular movement. For Instance, you can pace while talking on the phone and break up periods of sitting or standing by doing simple exercises at your desk. Even movements such as fidgeting appear beneficial. Among women who reported sitting for seven hours or more a day and hardly fidgeting, the risk of all-cause mortality increased by 30 percent. Women who reported fidgeting often fared far better – after sitting for 5 to 6 hours a day, their risk of mortality decreased. Further, there was no increased mortality risk from longer sitting time in either the “middle” or “high” fidgeting groups.
Another example, people who made a point to get up and walk around for two minutes out of every hour increased their lifespan by 33 percent compared to those who did not. Those who stood up for two minutes and hour did not rap the benefits that those who walked for 2 minutes did. Recent research even showed that it takes just 3 hours of sitting to cause damage to blood vessels.
So while it’s clear that excessive sitting isn’t healthy and can lead to low back pain, it’s likely that excessive standing isn’t either. The “happy middle” is changing your position regularly and often throughout the day and keeping active. Ideally, I recommend sitting for no more than 3 hours total each day.