In 2015, the Public Health England, the government body responsible for public health issues in England and Wales, recently commissioned an expert statement on the status and impact of prolonged sitting in the office. As the findings circulated media outlets like CNN, Forbes and clinical websites like the Mayo Clinic began to compare the health risks of sitting for prolonged periods to that of smoking. There was a time when the general population thought smoking was harmless, the same may be true for sitting for long periods of time. In this sense, sitting is the new smoking.
HOW TO AVOID THE HEALTH RISKS OF PROLONGED SITTING
Before we get into the hazards and risk of sitting at a desk all day, let’s share some of the ways you can avoid these risks. These recommendations are a combination from the Mayo Clinic and the British Journal of Sports Medicine.
- Take a break from sitting every 30 minutes. Standing for long periods of time need to be broken up too.
- If you work at a desk, try a standing desk — or improvise with a high table or counter. You can start with two hours of standing and eventually graduate to 4 hours.
- Walk with your colleagues for meetings rather than sitting in a conference room.
- Position your work surface above a treadmill — with a computer screen and keyboard on a stand or a specialized treadmill-ready vertical desk — so that you can be in motion throughout the day.
SITTING CAN CAUSE CHRONIC HEALTH PROBLEMS
Sitting doesn’t just happen at your desk and work, it also happens at home on the couch. A study about couch potatoes who watch 23 hours per day versus those that watch 11 hours per day of television found they had a 64% higher risk of heart disease. Sedentary behaviors also up the risk for diabetes due to an uptick in insulin resistance (increasing your blood sugar). Finally, although the cause is not known, emerging studies have correlated certain cancers (lung, uterine, and colon) with too much sitting.
TOO MUCH SITTING CAN BE RELATED TO MENTAL HEALTH
In general, we know more activity increases the good endorphins that release the chemicals that make us feel happy. When you are sitting, you are almost completely sedentary. Dementia is also a risk from prolonged sitting. When you add up all the physical risks of sitting too much (heart disease, diabetes, stroke, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol) you have a recipe for the same conditions that have a role in dementia.
TOO MUCH SITTING CAN UNDO YOUR EXERCISE AND CONTRIBUTE TO WEIGHT GAIN
If you happen to be someone that works out often, sitting for long periods everyday can counter your great workout ethic. Sitting everyday at work can reverse the effects of working out 7 hours a week. Therefore, some folks who do the recommended 2-3 hours of exercise a week can still gain weight.
FINALLY, TOO MUCH SITTING STRESSES OUT YOUR BACK
Even with great posture, proper chair height, and an ergonomic chair, the seated position can still put a stress on you back muscles, neck, and spine. It’s a good idea to get up and move around every 30 minutes to stretch and straighten your spine.
If you are suffering from neck and back pain or chronic pain in general, Renew Physical Therapy can help. Visit our About Us page to learn more about our practice, clinic, and staff. Call us at 503.928.4914 to schedule an appointment.
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