It is now widely understood that sitting for extended periods of time throughout the day is detrimental to health and longevity. With our digital and information age, many jobs include sitting behind a desk. For many people, this could mean sitting for 8 or more hours a day. Not to mention, just watching TV at the end of a long day can add to the total amount of “posterior break-time.”
Many people believe that spending 30 minutes to an hour exercising can offset the negative side effects of sitting for long periods of time throughout the day. Even if you spend an hour pushing your body to the limit with strenuous activity, those 8-10 hours sitting may have already caused damage.
How sitting for long periods of time affects the body
Research has solidified the notion that sitting for extended periods of time causes damage to the body. First off, our posture suffers. Being hunched over in a chair causes a stiff neck and sore shoulders. Continuous sitting can even cause an inflexible spine and possible disk problems.
According to the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, a woman who sits 5 hours or less a day has a greatly decreased risk of heart disease than a woman who sits 10 or more hours a day. Sitting for long periods of time has been directly linked to high cholesterol and high blood pressure. The risk of heart related medical problems increases with each hour spent in a chair.
An increased risk of diabetes has also been linked to sitting. Blood sugar levels are higher than normal with people who sit for a long period of time. The pancreas increases the amount of insulin produced and can cause Type II diabetes.
Certain cancers are also associated with unhealthy levels of sitting. Endometrial, breast, and colon cancer risk levels increase with the amount of time you spend sitting. The increased weight gain and boosted insulin levels from being sedentary are thought to aggregate these types of cancers.
Plus, don’t we all want to look a little better and healthier? Sitting causes fatter and more limp glutes. Not to mention, sitting can cause a weak and possibly flabby midsection due to the fact that the abdominal muscles are not being used frequently. All that time spent doing squats and ab crunches may be offset by the amount of time sitting.
Fortunately, there is hope in fighting the detrimental effects of sitting.
Even though damage is done from sitting for long periods of time, we can still live healthy lives. Dr. James Levine, a medical professor for the Mayo Clinic in Arizona and an obesity expert, has much to say on the subject of sitting.
Dr. Levine stated, “First of all, if you go to the gym, that does do you good. In fact, that is a phenomenal dose-response relationship. The more you do, the more benefit you get. That does not, however, relinquish you from the responsibility of being active throughout the day or of realizing the opportunities to be active throughout the day.”
We should strive to break up the continuous sitting throughout the day. Forming a habit of taking small breaks throughout the day can help fight the negative impact of sitting. Dr. Levine recommends breaking up each hour with 10 minute intervals spent moving. He said, “The bottom-line is that if you’ve been sitting for an hour, you’ve been sitting for too long. We should all be up at least 10 minutes out of every hour.”
If you feel like you’ve been sitting awhile, stand up, stretch, or take a walk. It may be a good idea to set an alarm on your phone to alert you to take a break from sitting each hour.
Tips to help you get up and move
After you have been sitting for awhile, it is a good idea to stretch. Stretch your hamstrings by bending over and touching your toes while keeping your legs relatively straight. While standing, grab your left foot with your left hand and pull until you feel tension on your quad. Repeat with the right foot and right hand to stretch your quads.
If you are watching TV, stand up and walk during commercials or use the commercial break to get a set in of pushups or sit-ups. When there is a choice between taking an escalator or stairs, choose the stairs. Keep an active lifestyle and focus on getting 30 minutes to an hour of strenuous exercise per day.
Tools to help your posture and limit the damage of sitting
Use a Stability Ball Chair while sitting at a desk to improve your posture and prevent slouching. They promote active sitting by forcing your abdominal muscles to work to stabilize your core.
Standing Desks can be placed onto a desk to hold laptops. Work while you stand and completely reduce the amount of time you spend sitting.
Try a Posture Corrector to help prevent slouching while sitting. It will force you to sit upright and will help prevent the negative effects sitting has on your posture.
Sitting has become a key part of work and casual life. Limit the time sitting to prevent it’s negative consequences. Focus on becoming more active. Pay attention to your posture and concentrate on not slouching. Sitting may be unpreventable in today’s world, but the consequences of sitting for too long can be easily avoided by focusing on staying active throughout the day.