Sitting – The Silent Injury

Physiotherapy Owen Sound

I chose to name this article as “Sitting – The Silent Injury”, because sitting is often associated with comfort and injury with pain and lack of function. But sitting/inactivity can be injurious too. Several health agencies advocate against sitting or inactivity in general.

A less active lifestyle is associated with increasing our risk for several health conditions including cancer, heart diseases, lung diseases and a plethora of other conditions

Sitting or less active lifestyle in general results in decreased strength and flexibility. Clinical studies have shown that decreased strength increases the risk of developing functional limitations and disability.

In research published in the Journal of American Medical Association, the author measured the hand grip strength of 6089 people between 45 to 68 years and put them into three groups based on the strength measurements. Hand Grip strength has been found to correlate with the strength of other muscle groups and is thus a good indicator of overall strength.

Among the 6089 men who qualified for the study, 2259 (37%) died before the final assessment done 25 years later. Of the 3830 survivors, 3218 (84.0%) participated in the follow-up tests.

The researchers found that the group of people with the lowest strength in their middle age had more difficulty in activities of daily living such as walking, bathing, toileting, dressing up etc as they got older.

They concluded that good muscle strength in midlife may protect people from old age disability by providing a greater safety margin above the threshold of disability.

People with greater muscle strength during midlife are at a lower risk of becoming disabled because of their greater reserve of strength regardless of chronic conditions that may develop.

Exercise interventions aimed at improving strength in all muscle groups could potentially lower the risk of subsequent physical disability. Muscle strength can be increased substantially by physical exercise at all ages.

What exercises should I do?

The more important thing is the level of intensity at which you start the exercises.

Many a time people start exercises at an intensity above and beyond their current capacity and end up hurting themselves.

The type of exercises should be selected based on any medical conditions that you may have which may make some types of exercise not advisable.

It could also be based on your interests, functional or recreational goals and needs. Some examples are yoga, swimming, running, jogging, tai-chi, and the list can go on.

In Grey and Bruce, we have VON facilitated smart exercises program for seniors, the YMCA in Owen Sound has fantastic programs for general fitness, several private health and wellness centers and individual providers offer great fitness programs to participate.

Consulting an appropriate professional to guide you through with suitable exercises and at an appropriate level of intensity could be a great place to start towards accomplishing your goals.

If you have a pain or an injury that prevents you from getting active, it would benefit you consult a health professional such as a physiotherapist who would have a good understanding of the injury and who has a goal to get you active and independent.


1. Nagi SZ, An epidemiology of disability among older adults in the United States Milbank Q. 1976; 54:439-467.

2. Verbrugge LM, Jette AM. The disablement process Soc Sci Med. 1994;38:1-14

3. Sakari-Rantala R, Era P, Rantanen T, heikkinen E. Associations of sensory-motor functions with poor mobility in 75- and 80- year old people. Scand J Rehabil Med 1998;30:121-127

4. Rantanen T, Era P, Kauppinen M, Heikkinen E. Maximal isometric muscle strength and socio-economic status, health and physical activity in 75-year old persons. J Aging Phys Activity 1994;2: 206-220

5. Rantanen T, Guralnik JM, Foley D, Masaki K, Leveille S, Curb JD, White L. Midlife hand grip strength as a predictor of old age disability. JAMA 1999; Feb 10; 281(6):558-60.

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