Is Sitting Killing Us?

 

Instinctively, we know sitting for extended periods of time is not good for us. However, we typically attribute the primary adverse health consequences of excessive sitting to be more ergonomic related. You know issues like carpel tunnel syndrome, rounded shoulders or lower back pain.  Well it turns out body structure and posture issues are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to our overall health.

Numerous research studies in the new field of ‘inactivity research’ discovered sitting for prolonged periods of time is much more damaging then once believed.  In fact too much sitting can significantly reduce life expectancy. Moreover exercise alone will not necessarily undo all the internal damage.  Sitting just 3-hours a day can shave 2-years off your life expectancy.

Even if we punctuate a long day of tapping away at a keyboard with vigorous exercise we are still 16% more likely to acquire a chronic disease such as cancer, diabetes, or cardiovascular disease than someone who sits less.  Exasperate numerous hours of sitting with high levels of stress, or worse yet a sedentary lifestyle and the propensity for premature death or chronic disease rises exponentially.

The recommendation is 5-minutes of standing for every 30-minutes of sitting.  Okay, so your current job requires a lot of daily sitting and your weekly paycheck pays the mortgage.  I get it! As an athlete and fitness professional I thrive on movement and activity.  However, as a health educator I spend numerous hours doing research and writing.  I deal with this issue every day.

From a biomechanical perspective our bodies were designed for movement.  Muscles are happiest when there is a load or resistance placed upon them.  Without load bearing weight muscles begin to atrophy, and very quickly, within 72 hours of non-use.  When certain muscles atrophy other muscles have to overcompensate for the weaker ones.  This creates muscle imbalances and dysfunctional body movement patterning.

Repetitive sitting over long periods of time makes the body very unhappy, and marks the beginning of dysfunctional body structure patterning, which in turn is the primary culprit of bodily pain.  Now we have negative internal-based health issues to worry about as well.

So what is the answer?  How do we compensate for prolonged sitting?

The answer lies in finding creative ways to add more movement into our work life, and daily life in general. We have been conditioned through our modern, convenience-based environment to sit.   We used to be hunters and gatherers. Then we became farmers and with modernization, technology, and the industrial age we have become ultra-sedentary slugs.

It is no surprise our waistlines are ever expanding, while the excessively overweight and obese population borders on pandemic We must recondition, reeducate our bodies by incorporating more movement into our daily life. We can do this at work by adding in lots of mini-movement breaks throughout the day.

Here are three tips, which can add movement into your workday.

First, start your day with a light stretching routine and if it is logistically possible, start biking or walking to work.  Always use the stairs instead of the elevator.  When communicating with fellow associates get up and walk over to them instead of using email or the phone.  Walk to lunch and during your lunch hour.

Most importantly take mini-stand-up and stretch breaks throughout the day. During each mini- break do a series of diversified standing stretches. If you can include some resistance-based exercises like wall sits, plank holds, triceps dips, knee bends or even lunge walking.

Second, improve the ergonomics of your workstation.  Use a stand-up desk to increase the load on your lower body.  Stirworks makes one of the best smart stand-up desks on the market today!  They make premium high-quality premium stand-up desks with futuristic cutting edge technology that is mind blowing.

Third, another alternative is to use a Physio ball as a chair, which utilizes and strengthens your CORE and leg muscles for balance. Studies have shown when we sit our leg muscles are completely inactive promoting lower body musculature atrophy.

The point is we need find new creative ways to consistently be more active in our daily work life.  This requires us to become more vigilant and resourceful in finding ways to move our body.  The prominent feature of our environment is ‘sedentarism’.  We have become conditioned for comfort versus movement.  We must decondition our habitual conditioned body movement patterns, stand, stretch and move more often.  Incorporating physical activity into our daily life can lower the risk of a reduced quality of life and longevity.

On your off days get involved in outdoor activities like hiking, trekking, gardening, jump on a trampoline, or find indoor movement based activities like rock climbing, Zumba, Yoga or Pilates. Movement can be as simple as playing with the dog, your children, gardening, or tackling home improvement projects.

At night when you typically relax in front of the television do some stretching exercises as you watch your favorite sitcom. Better yet, cut your television time in half, put some headphones on and go for a walk while listening to your favorite audio book or music.

As a fitness professional, and health educator for over three decades I cannot stress enough how important movement is to our overall physical health and quality of life.  Today, most clients have moderate to severe dysfunctional body patterning and moderate to severe bodily pain.  

This was not the case before the computer age.  Posture and body structure concerns were virtually non-existent.  Often body structure and movement need to be addressed prior to any fitness training protocol.
Be the wiser and smarter minority by adding more movement into your workday and your daily life.  I have a stand-up desk is myself, which set to stand 65% of the time.  While writing this article I took numerous mini-breaks, stood up, stretched and walked around the house. Now it is my time to hit the gym.