Do you sit more than you stand most days?
We have become a sitting culture. We sit in our homes, in our cars, in our offices, and even in drive-throughs to get dinner! Then we sit to eat our meals and to watch TV – often at the same time.
The problem is that our bodies are designed to be hunter-gatherers. We are built to move.
Now research shows that prolonged sitting has emerged as a new health scourge.
Headlines warn “Sitting is the new smoking.” Health experts have started to refer to inactivity as the “sitting epidemic”, or “sitting disease”.
Read on to find out the health consequences of a sedentary lifestyle, and how you can take a stand for your health!
Stand Up for Joint Health
We all have the same 24 hours a day, and in our modern lifestyle we typically spend a lot of it sitting or lying down.
Let’s add up how much time we spend sitting or lying:
Sleep = 7-8 hours
Sit as we drive to and from work = 1-2 hours
Sit at work = 6-8 hours
Sit for meals = 1-2 hours a day
Sit to watch TV, go online or read = up to 1-3 hours
Total sedentary time =approximately 16-23 hours a day.
That doesn’t leave us much time for activity, and health experts say that exercise at the end of the day isn’t enough to combat the havoc it’s wreaking with our health.
How does sitting affect your health and lifespan?
Research shows that uninterrupted sitting increases the risk of heart disease, because of reduced blood flow to your heart.
When your muscles switch into a dormant mode, it compromises their ability to break down fats and sugars, elevating your risk of diabetes, cancer and other conditions
According to “Sit-Stand Research”, from Juststand.org:
- A 2010 study of 120,000 adults, published by the American Cancer Society suggests that the more people sit, the shorter their average life span. NBC News reported on that research: "The study adds to a growing body of evidence suggesting that sitting itself is deadly. The research elevates sedentary behavior as an important risk factor, similar to smoking and obesity.”
How sitting affects your joints and bones
- Sedentary lifestyles increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. “For people who sit most of the day, their risk of heart attack is about the same as smoking.” -Martha Grogan, Cardiologist, Mayo Clinic
Prolonged sitting increases tension in major muscles and joints, and can lead to spine misalignment and numbness. It can impact your joints by tightening the hip flexors and shortened the hamstrings, which can lead to pinched nerves in the long run.
Simply stand up every 20 minutes or so. It will give your body a break from unconsciously holding a position for too long. It will also push the blood out of your legs and stretch out your ligaments so they don’t become strained.
The remedy to “sitting disease”
Exercising before or after work is great, but it isn’t enough to counteract the effects of sitting all day.
The remedy to sitting disease is standing and walking more frequently during the day. This will increase blood flow to your heart, boost your energy, tone your muscles, improve your posture, and ramp up your metabolism so you burn extra calories.
Here are some tips for moving more:
1. Set a timer at your desk so you stand up every half hour, or at least every hour.
2. When you stand, do a few simple stretches. Place your hands on your lower back and stretch backwards. Gently turn your head from side to side and then tilt it up and down. Then lean forward to let your whole body relax from its upright posture.
3. Use an excuse to walk around. Here are the most popular reasons to move: go to the rest room, get a drink, go to the printer, or go out for lunch or a coffee break.
4. Make phone calls on your feet. Make it a habit to stand up whenever you are on the phone.
5. Speak to your colleagues in person by walking over to them, instead of emailing.
6. Suggest a standing meeting, or “walk and talk” with colleagues.
7. Explore options such as a standing desk or sitting on an exercise ball, which requires more muscle balancing than an office chair.
8. When you sit, make sure you maintain good posture with your feet flat on the floor, head straight, and with your lower back arched inward naturally.
9. If you drive to work, park in the spot farthest from the entrance. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Walk to the restroom farthest from your desk instead of the one closest to it. If you take the bus, subway or train to work, stand up part of the time.
10. Stand and move around when you watch TV, or at least during commercial breaks.