This is probably one piece of bad news you shouldn’t take sitting down: sitting for hours, on end and on a daily basis is bad for your health. The problem is modern lifestyle and typical work settings often require a lot of time sitting down – from lengthy commutes, 9 to 5 desk jobs and more hours couch-bound in front of the television.
Sitting Is The New Smoking
On average, people spend 9.5 hours sitting down – that is more than time spent sleeping. Scientists believe that sitting more than 6 hours a day is equivalent to smoking a pack of cigarettes.
Recent studies around the globe have shown that excessive sitting and reclining have shown increased risks of chronic health problems such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, cancer and yes, shorter life spans.
In fact, even engaging in health-enhancing physical activities may not be enough to reduce the risk for disease. In a study published January 20, 2015 in the Annals of Internal Medicine, they found out that people who sit for long periods are 24% more likely to die from health-related problems compared to people who spend less time sitting down.
In the said study, the researchers found out that prolonged sitting was associated with increased risks of colon, colorectal, breast, ovarian and endometrial cancers.
How Sitting Takes A Toll On Your Body
Should you be concerned? Let’s gain a better understanding how prolonged hours of sitting can take a serious toll on the body.
When your body spends extended periods of inactivity, the internal system becomes less efficient and starts to falter over time. The more time you spend sitting down, the less robust your tissues become, which includes not only your muscles but including your heart and lungs. This is because the body goes into a hibernation mode. Over time, it starts to decay.
Obesity & Metabolic Problems
According to the November 2009 Obesity study, obese people sit 2.5 more hours a day compared to lean individuals. In addition, excessive sitting has been associated with Metabolic Syndrome, which is basically a combination of different factors including high blood pressure, low levels of good cholesterol and hyperglycemia. These factors place you at a higher risk of serious medical conditions like stroke, diabetes and heart disease.
Back pain, nerve problems, herniated discs and painful joints have grown increasingly prevalent these days, and mostly arising as direct result of sitting for long hours. This is because sitting places significant pressure on the spine, as it distorts the natural curvature of the spine. The back muscles are under serious stress to hold the spine in shape since when in a sitting position, the body no longer relies on the natural curves of the spine to stay upright against gravity.
What Can You Do About It?
Before you decide to quit your desk job or pop a treadmill-desk in your office, here are some small adjustments you can make in your daily activities:
Instead of sending an email to your co-worker, deliver your message in person instead.
Conduct walking meetings – walk and talk around the block or take a stroll in a nearby park
Take small breaks throughout the day
If you are commuting, miss a stop on purpose and get off before or after a stop so you can squeeze in 10-15 minutes of walking
Stand up when taking a call
Get rid of your automatic garage door
Technology has a way of making life easier and more convenient but more often than not, it has made our lives less active. Take time to slow down every once in a while and appreciate the simple things in life.
Okanagan Health & Performance is the leading health and wellness centre in Kelowna, integrating several health care services in one location.