On average, we sit for 7 ½ hours a day, factor in the additional amount of time sleeping and that number easily jumps to over 13 hours of daily inactivity. Want to see how long you sit on a daily basis? Use this quick online tool from Juststand.org (http://www.juststand.org/tabid/866/language/en-US/Default.aspx) I’m sure you’ll be surprised at the outcome (I know I was).
You might be wondering, what is so wrong with sitting? To answer that question let’s look at some of the major impacts sitting can have on the human body.
- Increased risk for tightness, pain, and spinal problems. It can be argued that our bodies were not meant to sit for extended periods of time endlessly staring at a fixed glowing screen. We could believe that this practice probably isn’t in the best interest of the health of our eyes; furthermore it also can put a lot unnecessary compression on our spine. This additional compression can lead to poor spinal flexibility and an irritated weak lower back. Over time slouching and poor sitting posture can contribute to tight necks, headaches, rounded and hunched shoulders, and tight weak hips. Sitting excessively can also increase your risk of developing a possible herniated disk and prolonged spinal nerve damage.
- An increased risk for cardiovascular and neurological disease. A vast body of research has been conducted arguing the health consequences of spending too much time in a sedentary state such as sitting. For example, it has been noted that an increase in sedentary time was associated with impaired insulin sensitivity, a higher risk of developing diabetes, and increase in various kinds of heart related diseases. Sitting in front a computer screen all day can also have an effect on suppressing the production of mood enhancing chemicals in the brain; adverse effects of unnatural light coupled with inactivity are believed to have an impact our daily cognitive well-being. The age old term “move it or lose it” comes to mind when thinking about how little demand we are putting on our brains and bodies by sitting all day.
- Increase risk for obesity. Have you ever lounged around all day only to end the day being exhausted, ever wonder why? Sedentary activities tend to promote further sedentary activities. Inactivity can have a significant negative impact of human physiology. Extended sitting leads to a decrease in productivity and decrease in caloric expenditure. Simply put the less you move the fewer calories you burn. If you take in more calories than needed you will gain weight. This activity will compound itself and eventually lead to a newly unwanted “shapely” body. Increased body fat percentages have been known to cause cardiovascular and gallbladder disease, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and even certain types of cancers.
Luckily these problems can be easily avoided by taking some simple preventative measures!
Try these suggestions out:
- MOVE MORE. Simple enough, right? If you are stuck at an office job all day there are still plenty of things you can do to reduce the amount of time you spend sitting.
For starters, implement a simple movement schedule in your workday. For example, you can set a timer for every hour to remind yourself to get out of your chair and take a short walk. If your building has multiple floors take the stairs when you go for a walk.
Try Parking further away from your destinations. If possible, bike or walk if the distance and weather is manageable. The goal is to try and find any opportunity in the day to increase the amount of time spent in motion.
Download a activity tracking app. Many of these apps will encourage you to move throughout the day by sending you reminders. These can be great tools for tracking your movement progress.
- Exercise regularly. Counter the time you do spend sitting by finding something that gets you out of the house and off of your butt. This can be anything from attending a conventional gym, to outdoor activity, to joining a team or a group sport. Find what works best for you and your interests. Don’t forget to have an open mind and don’t be afraid to get out there and try a new activity, you might end up meeting some new friends, a significant other, or learning something new about yourself. Get out of your comfort zone and grow as a human, that’s what life is all about.
- Take control of your nutrition. Prevent obesity from a sedentary lifestyle by being mindful of what and how much you consume. Nutrition can be confusing and a mystery for most, it doesn’t have to be. There is a bunch of ways to approach proper nutrition each with varying results. Know this, everyone is different and can require different approaches to illicit a favorable outcome, however what I believe to work the best for the majority of people for sustainable healthy weight loss is something called macronutrient tracking. In its most basic explanation it involves identifying an individual’s daily protein, carbohydrate, fat, and calorie requirements to maintain their current bodyweight based on their activity levels. Once that baseline is established, macronutrient values are subtracted or added in an effort to promote fat loss or weight gain. I favor this approach because it is science based, trackable, and offers the individual minimal restrictions on their diet. This approach to nutrition can be practiced for an extended period of time, unlike many of those “quick fix” style diets.
- Stretch and pay attention to your body. Counter the negatives of sitting by implementing a simple stretching routine to keep you loose and flexible. Stretching the hip flexors, the hamstrings, glutes, shoulders, and back are important if you are stuck sitting all day. Get yourself of a small foam roller and “roll out” during your down time. Be mindful of your posture at work when sitting at your desk. If possible try and get an ergonomic chair that will promote positive posture habits. Always remember to listen to your body, if it’s starting to get uncomfortable to sit get up and move around a bit. Don’t ignore developing aches and pains.
Hopefully this sheds some light on your daily sitting habits and motivates you to move. Life is no fun if you’re not healthy and in pain.
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