How Sitting Destroys Your Health

A recent study found that sitting for long periods of time is equivalent o smoking a pack of cigarettes. How much truth is in this claim?

It is in fact true that people who sit for 12.5 hours or more a day have the highest risk of death from any other cause. Shocking, I know.

A study published in Annals of Internal Magazine finds that adults 45 or older spent 77 percent of waking hours either sitting or being inactive. There are so many terrible, negative health impacts from sitting for long periods of time, even if you are physically active and workout. In other words, if you sit at a desk all day and then go to the gym for an hour, that sitting is still detrimental to your health.

Why is it so important to get more active during the day?

1) Sitting is linked to metabolic syndrome, Type 2 diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease.

2) Sitting leads to a slower metabolism, making it harder for your body to burn calories throughout the day. This also explains why sitting is linked to weight gain and contributes to America’s obesity epidemic.

3) Compromised posture: This is particularly relevant if you work on a laptop, because your shoulders curve inwards, causing you to become hunched. This leads to all kinds of problems in your neck, back and spine. Overtime, it can cause debilitating and chronic pain in these areas.

What the heck do you do about it?

Fortunately, there are several options to look into if you are worried about the amount of hours you spend sitting during a day. There are small tweaks you can make in your daily routine to ensure that your body is not stagnant for too long.

1) Standing Desks. Standing desks are now a popular item at several offices. My standing desk at my office levitates up or down with the press of a button. If you don’t have something like this however, there are other options. They just may require a bit more dedication.

2) Use a monitor. Along with the above tip, this advice is relevant if you work at a desk at all. If you have a computer monitor connected to your laptop, your neck will be in a much better position this way, and won’t have as much strain on it. Over time, you will notice reduced pain in this area.

2) Take 30 minute breaks from sitting. Set a reminder somewhere so that you remember to get up from your desk every thirty minutes. After a while, this will become habitual and you will not need the reminders. I use the app called Standup! and I have it set to every thirty minutes whenever I am at work. I will go to the bathroom, refill my water bottle, or simply take a walk down the hallway. It doesn’t matter what you do, but definitely get up and bring some movement into your day.

3) Stand while talking on the phone. If you need to take a phone call, get up and take it outside as you pace around. This is a great way to log in a few extra steps without even really paying attention to the fact you’re moving.

4) Walk with a co-worker for a meeting, rather than sit in a conference room. Go with a co-worker to grab a cup of coffee, get lunch or have your meeting walking and talking, rather than sitting. Not only will you be able to get outside and get some sunshine, but again you are getting exercise without it really feeling like it.

5) Take the stairs whenever possible and park farther away. These two options force you to move your body more, and once you get in the habit of doing them, it will not seem so bad.

6) Yoga. Period. Yoga is fantastic, anytime, anywhere, but after a long day where you spend a lot of time sitting, yoga is a great way to relieve muscle tension and get all the muscles in your body moving. Yoga will help with joint pain, spine health, flexibility, and so much more. Starting a yoga practice does not have to be daunting. Even if you do ten minutes a day, that is a fantastic start. I have a post on Yoga poses for back pain that I recommend if this is an area you experience tension. I also love this video by FitnessBlender that gives great exercises to strengthen your back and improve posture.

All these practical small steps end up having a large impact on your well-being. I hope you consider incorporating some of these recommendations!

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