Sitting On My Butt Is Killing My Knee

(4 min read)

Usually, we think of physical pain being caused by us doing something wrong, or something crappy has happened to us. Elbow pain from too much tennis. Back pain from an old car accident. Migraine from too much damn sugar. But – for me, I think my knee pain/discomfort is caused by actually doing NOTHING. Nothing in the sense of lack of movement, lack of regular exercise, lack of stretching/yoga.

My knee pain source: SITTING TOO MUCH AND FOR TOO LONG. Welcome to my life, and, I am sure, welcome to many of yours.

I know I sit too much. I have sat too much for decades, but I was much more active when I worked for someone else. Working for myself makes it easy to sit for hours without getting up and makes it much easier to have irregular exercise. I mean, I can sit with pjs on in bed and work. I can sit by the pool, on the lanai, or in the car and work. Sit Sit Sit.

When my right knee started acting up a few months ago, I began dissecting the potential cause. And I think I have finally nailed it: I “kneed” (pun intended) to get up off my butt and move. We are designed to move. I KNOW THIS. I teach this. Oh man, why can’t we listen to ourselves? Grrr.

Current stats show that about 4/10 Americans get no exercise. Not such a shocker for me. I see that in my practice as a Coach/Trainer. But I was a bit shocked to learn that upwards of 85% of us have jobs requiring us to sit for extended periods  (considered 8 hours or more). And in this 85%, I couldn’t find that they include our transportation industry or large equipment operators. So this percentage is likely lots higher.

WHOA: Desk-ridden stats: 8.5/10 of us SIT upwards of 8 hours or more!

First, I want to say – I am sure you have heard, “sitting” has been branded the NEW SMOKING. I will go on record and probably tick off a few of you by saying that both have health risks and are linked to premature death, but the actual cause and literal effects are not the same. Just say’n-had to get that out of the way…

It is evident to me that sitting does affect us physically. Moving less = back pain, loss of range of motion, and other “ergonomic” aftermaths. Sitting while working also causes a tendency to consume more significant portions and unhealthy foods. Let’s get real, most of us are not counting the almonds we shove into our mouth while creating a huge PowerPoint, nor are we chowing down many healthy salads. Shoving a sandwich in our mouth takes less time than stabbing kale. But I hadn’t thought about the stats that show extensive sitting affects us emotionally and socially. We tend to be less apt to interact with others, and extensive sitting has been linked to depression. Hmmm.

Let’s look at a few more stats. I love learning. In June 2018, the Centers for Disease Control reported that only 23.1% of Americans get enough exercise. What is “enough,” you ask. In 2008, the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) guidelines advised adults aged 18 to 64 to get some muscle-strengthening activity twice a week as well as 150 minutes per week of moderate aerobic exercise or 75 minutes per week of vigorous exercise (yes, you need to sweat).

I found the following interesting, even though I should have known this…According to DHHS, nationally, our men are doing a better job of exercising. I wonder if it is due to organized sports, such as co-ed softball or picking up some hoops, even later in life. No – I think dudes demand their personal time to squeeze in a run or hit the gym more than women do. I can tell you that my women struggle with setting self-care boundaries for nearly all aspects of their life, including doctor appointments, time for friends, and working out. They put work and family responsibilities first. Therefore, the DHHS stats of 18.7% of women and 27.2% of men hitting their exercise target goal of 2x/wk strength training and 150 minutes a week of moderate activity (or 75 mins strenuous) seems accurate.

I can’t even excuse the fact that I know steps matter…I have several years behind me working with Steps to a Healthier U.S.™ and Colorado on the Move™ which was a “movement” whereby we were all encouraged to wear step counters or pedometers (Smart Watches weren’t born quite yet). Over the years, I managed several corporate wellness programs with employee challenges to improve daily steps to 10,000 per day. At the time, I lived and worked in the “healthiest state in the union,” Colorado, so perhaps moving came easier. It was a lifestyle. Stats have shown that there has been a disparity in wellness and overall health by geographic location for decades. The 2018 DHHS activity data reflects this: Mississippi held the lowest percentage of its population active, with 13.5%, while Colorado was the most active, at 32.5%. The Southeast tends to be less active.

Where am I going with this – are you still with me? My knee hurts, remember?


We (I) need to make a conscious effort to get up more. I know you have heard this a million times – me, too. We need to get up every 60-90 minutes, even if it is a walk around the office or house or doing a few mini squats and stretch.

This weird knee pain I am experiencing isn’t attributed to anything else…I have ruled out tears. I have had no “injury.” I do not have any over-use syndrome from a flipping sport – really? I would have to leave my stupid chair to play tennis or ping pong.

My self-diagnosis: “NO-USE SYNDROME.”

My personal prescription: swimming, lengthening my walking strides, using my best friend “The Foam Roller” [insert cuss and cuss and cuss some more], doing a few baby squats throughout the day, and amping up my yoga.

Duration of this experiment: one month. I AM NOT racing off for a doc visit, then an MRI, try an injection, swallow prescription anti-inflammatory meds, or, worse yet, painkillers. I will tackle this sucker with my own “get off you’re a**” diagnosis and therapy routine.”

I will keep you posted. If after 30 days, the discomfort persists, I will hit up the doc.

I guess I need to get up and move ASAP as I have been sitting TOO Long.