Back pain and neck pain are far more prevalent today than they were a century ago, when people spent more time performing grueling manual labor in factories and farms.

That seems contradictory, but it makes sense. Laborers spend few hours sitting and much time moving their bodies the way humans have for thousands of years: lifting, reaching, pulling, and pushing their way through the work day. As a result, their bodies generally stay aligned from head to toe, capable of fluid movement that transfers power throughout the kinetic chain. (Sure, the rest of their muscles were sore—but that’s normal for anyone who lifts, walks, and carries stuff all day.)


These days, however, most of us rarely perform manual labor. Instead we spend much of our days hunched over computers or behind steering wheels. When standing, we’re often bent forward staring down at smart phones. As a result, our hips lock down, our shoulders round forward, and our bodies engage in compensatory movements that lead to pain, injury, and a diminished quality of life.

That’s why the catchphrase “sitting is the new smoking” is no exaggeration. Sure, you’re not frying your lungs hunched over all day, but the long-term effects of sitting and not moving can shorten lives just like cigarettes.


So it’s important to take action every day to counteract the effects of sitting. Here’s how.

Pete Williams is a N.A.S.M.-certified personal trainer and the author or co-author of a number of books on performance and training.