Prolonged sitting is emerging as one of the most dangerous practices of our modern world. With advent of desk jobs, cars, computers and sedentary leisure activities such as watching TV and pinning on Pinterest, we tend to spend practically all our waking time seated. And it is making us fatter and sicker and robbing us of years of life. The scariest part is that sitting is an independent factor. This according to D. W. Dustan, means that it does not matter if you go to the gym, don’t smoke and eat salad for lunch.
Researches have linked sitting for long periods of time with a number of health concerns including obesity and metabolic syndrome – a cluster of conditions that includes increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist and abnormal cholesterol levels. Too much sitting also seem to increase the risk of death from cardiovascular disease and cancer, thus reducing your chances of living longer, according to Dr. James Levine.
A study compared adults who spend less than two hours a day in front of TV and those who spend more than four hours a day of recreational screen time. Those with greater screen time had;
• A nearly 50 percent increased risk of death from any cause.
• About 120 percent increased risk of events associated with cardiovascular disease such as chest pain or heart attack.
Sitting in front of the TV is not the only concern. Any extended sitting behind a desk at work or behind the wheel can as well be harmful.
According to another study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine on January 20th, 2015, more than half of the average person’s waking life involves sedentary activities such as watching television, working at a computer or commuting. So sitting should be a common health concern.
Jason Matuszak, M.D. Of Buffalo, New York, a sports medicine specialist and a member of AAFP commission on Health of the Public and Science, told AAFP news that the study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine shows every one should reduce the time they spend sitting. He also said that chronic sitting has a mortality rate similar to smoking. However, the less you exercise, the more pronounced the detrimental effect of sitting.
Tips on how to avoid prolonged sitting.
As indicated above, multiple studies are coming out proving just how bad sitting is for our health. Sadly, a very large percentage of people of the world spend majority of their days sitting down. Here are favorite tips to get you up and moving during the day as suggested by Dr. Matuszak;
• Transition to a stand up desk – many people now have it and they are happy with it.
• Drink enough water during the day that you will need to get up and urinate every two hours.
• Set your wrist watch, phone or computer to beep at regular intervals to remind you to get up and move. ”
If I know my day will involve mostly sitting ( like when I write ), I try to get up every hour and do jumping jacks for a minute ” says Dr. Ann Kulze.
• Make all your phone calls standing up.
• Keep your office trash can, office fax and printer a few meters away from your desk to force you to get up and use them.
• Strive to move during your leisure time. Do not sit during times away from office desk.
• Limiting TV viewing and get up and move during commercial breaks.
• Stand up during office meetings or better yet conduct meetings during a walk.
• Walk around during lunch break.
• Be grateful for after work household chores that require you to move.
• The most important times to avoid prolonged sitting are in the immediate1 – 2 hours after eating.
• Do not sit when you can stand when putting on make-up, drying your hair, ironing, waiting for the bus, for the duration of your commute, talking or texting on your phone.
• Keep tract of how much you are sitting each day and make an effort to reduce it, little by little each week.
While it is certainly possible to limit sitting, it is still an unavoidable part of most peoples lives. The question then becomes, how can you limit the risks associated with unavoidable sitting?
• Paying attention to your sitting posture is one way. A recent CNN article suggest ‘sitting smarter’ by incorporating yoga postures and being aware of your breathing.
• Familiarize yourself with your body’s signals to shift or move.
• Try stack sitting. In order to allow the bones in spine to stack well and permit the muscles along side them to relax. Sit with your behind sticking out behind you. When you breathe each in and out breath it stimulates circulation and allows natural healing to go on even while you sit.
• Stretch sitting. Another way to elongate your spine is by using your back rest as a traction device. You will need either a towel or a special traction cushion for this purpose. This simple application brings your back away from the back rest, lengthens your spine and then roots you higher up against the back rest. This position helps you to maintain an elongated spine.
1. James Levine et al; ” Thin or Fat: The neat difference, move a little, lose a lot, Crown Publishing, 2009
2. Dusta D.W. et al; Television veiwing time and mortality, obesity and lifestyle study, 2010
3. Shrestha N. et al; Workplace intervention for reduced sitting at work, Cochrane Database of systematic reviews, June 5, 2015
4. Annals of Internal Medicine, January, 2015