WHAT SITTING ALL DAY DOES TO YOUR BODY AND HOW TO REVERSE THE HARMFUL EFFECTS
They say, sitting is the new smoking, except it doesn’t cost us anything. Sure, we don’t spend cash on sitting in a chair the way we do when we buy cigarettes. But the actual price we pay, which is our physical health, is as high.
Turns out, on average, we spend way more hours sitting (9.3–15 hrs) than we spend sleeping (6–8 hrs), which, in case you were wondering, is not good news. But it’s hardly surprising, considering our daily routines:
We sit all day at the desk at work, we sit during our commute to work and back home, we sit at lunch and dinner, we sit in front of the TV, and some of us even sit at the gym!
We sit A LOT. And as with anything that we do a lot, it will have its effects on us sooner or later.
So what exactly are the effects of prolonged sitting, you’re asking? Well, to name a few:
- Strained Neck and Shoulders. Let’s start with the obvious. Holding your neck and head forward while sitting and working at a computer will give you sore neck and shoulders. Uncomfortable, but not the end of the world, am I right?
- Back Problems. Ironically, sitting puts more pressure on your spine than standing. Especially if you’re sitting hunched in front of your computer or over your smartphone. And then, one day you notice that your back is stiff. Before you know it, the stiffness evolves into back pain episodes. And for some us it ends with lower back disc injuries, including myself several years ago. Now, this is a real bummer.
- Muscle Atrophy. Guess what? if you don’t use them, they get weak. If they get weak, they no longer support your bones and joints, making you more susceptible to injuries. Keep in mind that after just two weeks of sitting for six hours a day, your muscles start to atrophy and your maximum oxygen consumption drops. This makes stairs harder to climb and walks harder to take.
- Hip and Knee Problems. Not only prolonged sitting causes your hip flexors to shorten, but it also can give you or aggravate existing knee pain. In fact, lack of movement can affect any and all joins in your body.
- Slowing Metabolism. If musculoskeletal horror stories are not enough to convince you to move more, let’s talk about your metabolism. Did you know that immediately after sitting down the electrical activity in your muscles slows down and your calorie-burning rate drops to one calorie per minute. And a slowing metabolism is a highway to… you guessed it:
- Weight Gain. Regardless of people’s diverse shapes and forms, excessive weight gain is dangerous and harmful. Obesity can kill, but it won’t do it before torturing you first. When you sit for hours without taking breaks to move, you’re likely to gain weight. As simple as that.
- Heart Disease. After one year of sitting longer than six hours, your body increases the production of fatty molecules and bad cholesterol, slowly but surely clogging your arteries. Poor blood circulation and increased blood pressure, cause by prolonged sitting, act as catastrophe catalyzers, increasing the risk of heart attack or stroke.
- Diabetes Risk. Research shows that people who spend long hours sitting have a 112% increased risk of diabetes due to higher levels of blood sugar and insulin resistance.
- Varicose Veins. Compared to the rest of the list, varicose veins don’t seem like a big deal. It’s true, generally, they are not harmful themselves. But sometime, they can lead to more serious conditions like blood clots. Now this is more than vanity that we’re talking about here.
- Anxiety and Depression. The risk of both depression and anxiety are higher in people who sit the most.
Are you still sitting? I thought so.
So what can you do to combat the sitting disease? Circling back to the smoking analogy isn’t exactly helpful here. As hard as it is, you can quit smoking and get on with your life. But you can’t just quit sitting.
Luckily, you don’t have to. There are plenty of simple and practical ways to incorporate mindful movement into your day at work. Here are a few things you can do to combat the sitting disease and be well on your way to reverse its nasty, harmful effects:
- Set a timer to remind you to stand up or stretch every hour.
- Ditch the boardroom and try walking meetings.
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator or the escalator.
- Don’t work through lunch and don’t have your lunch delivered to you. Pick a lunch spot with walking distance from your office. If you bring your lunch from home, go for a short walk after the meal.
- Experiment with a standing-desk or a treadmill-desk. If you don’t want to invest in one, try working on a counter or a stack of books or printing paper.
- Swap your chair for an exercise ball. It’s not expensive and it’ll engage your core and improve your posture.
- Walk or bike to work if you live in the neighborhood.
- If you have to take public transportation, get off one or two stops earlier and walk the rest of the distance.
- If you have to drive, park your car as far away from the entrance to your building as possible.
- Finally, do some chair yoga! Make your chair work harder for you! We at UTKATA Yoga like to make things accessible and convenient, so we deliver 30-minute chair yoga sessions that do not require a change of clothes or a yoga mat directly into your office.
Give these simple strategies a go! Find what work best for you and bring back mindful movement into your life… especially into your office.