This is Your Health on Sitting

You’ve likely heard it several times already… “Sitting is the new smoking.” That’s a big statement. Where does it come from?

Sitting has become the norm for so many people, especially those who work at a desk. Sitting at a desk for 7 or 8 hours, possibly coupled with driving to and from work and making trips for errands or to bring the kids to sports practices and dance classes, followed by relaxing at a show or on the couch in the evening to wrap up a busy day, can easily add up to 8, 10, even 12 or more hours of sitting each day.

An increasing number of studies are linking sitting with a range of negative health effects. Incidences of some forms of cancer, diabetes, obesity, and heart disease all increase in relation to the amount of time we spend sitting. Some muscles get tight (such as the hips and neck); others get loose (abdominals, lower back), and doing less weight-bearing activity contributes to osteoporosis. Reduced blood flow affects brain function, and being idle decreases so-called “good cholesterol” levels quickly. Sitting improperly (slouching, leaning forward to see a computer screen) can stress the body further and create new or aggravate existing physical discomfort (lower back, neck, shoulders). In fact, several studies indicate that prolonged sitting leads to premature death, regardless of age, diet, whether or not we smoke, or how much alcohol we consume.

Many are already aware that sitting is harmful to the health and try to offset that by running or hitting the gym for an hour-or-so each day. Unfortunately, recent studies are suggesting that that’s not enough… not only are the health effects of sitting independent of the several lifestyle factors mentioned above, they appear to be independent of how much we exercise during our leisure time!

This is scary stuff. What are we supposed to do?

In short, get up and move. Often.

Moving throughout the day does a better job of countering the negative health effects of sitting than going to the gym for an hour and then sitting for the rest of the day. Walk to and from work if you can. Spread out your printing jobs at work to make several trips to the printer. Drink lots of water throughout the day and view the frequent trips to the bathroom as life-savers 🙂 Go for a walk or take a yoga class during your lunch hour. Stand up and stretch for a couple of minutes every 30-60 minutes. Find active ways to relax, such as dance, tai chi, or yoga, in the evenings, instead of watching TV or spending time on Facebook.

Investing in your body takes energy, for sure, and starting new physical activities can seem overwhelming when you’re tired. But you can do it, and you’ll soon find that the investment in your health will strengthen your body and give you more energy in the end.

Other Articles in this issue:
Your Body on Yoga: The Psoas
Take 5 – Make Time for this Quick Stretch: Standing Back Bend
Health Tip: Hydration
Philosophy Byte: Namasté
Eat Well: Apple Muffins
Balance At Work News