In the words of Nilofer Merchant, a Silicon Valley corporate strategist,
“Sitting has become the smoking of our generation.”
If you’re like the majority of people in America today (approximately 50-70%), you probably spend six or more hours of your day sitting down (5). This should come as no surprise considering how imperative technology has become to our everyday lives. As if society didn’t spend enough time sitting down before, the emergence of television and computers has driven people to spend hours upon hours sitting down. And what’s so wrong with that? As it turns out, sitting down for such long periods of time is causing more damage than you might have ever thought.
Before you think this doesn’t apply to you, take an honest look at your daily routine. Most people wake up in the morning and sit, either on a couch, a chair, or at a kitchen table, while they drink the morning coffee, eat breakfast, check the news, etc. After the morning ritual, most people head off to work where they typically sit, either at a desk or at a machine of some kind, for the majority of the work day. Once the work day is done, the average Joe will head home to collapse in the recliner or on the couch only to move when it’s time to go to sleep and start the process all over again. When it’s all said and done, the average person sits over 9 hours a day (1).
Here’s the problem with all this sitting: the human body only burns about 1 calorie per minute when seated (1). Basically, your body all but completely shuts down as soon as you have a seat. To make matters worse, enzymes that help break down fat drop 90% when sitting down (1). In other words, it’s no coincidence that obese people tend to sit for an average of 2.5 more hours than thin people.
Even though the negative effects of sitting are immediate, having a long-term sitting addiction only magnifies the problem. To quote an article on Lifehacker.org:
“Within five days of changing to a sedentary lifestyle, your body increases plasma triglycerides (fatty molecules), LDL cholesterol (aka bad cholesterol), and insulin resistance. This means your muscles aren’t taking in fat and your blood sugar levels go up, putting you at risk for weight gain.” (4)
In the long run, sitting 6+ hours per day makes you up to 40% likelier to die within 15 years than someone who sits less than 3 (1). Furthermore, people with sitting jobs have twice the rate of cardiovascular disease as people with standing jobs (2). One study even suggests a sedentary lifestyle can shave off as much as 7 years of quality (healthy) life (6). Scary, huh?
If that doesn’t drive home the point, think about this:
– Those who sit 3 hours or more per day watching TV are 64% more likely to die from heart disease (whether they exercise or not). (1)
– One study showed that nearly 173,000 cancer cases each year were caused by physical inactivity. (3)
– Another study cited on Prevention.com shows that spending too much time sitting is linked to a two-fold increase in the risk of diabetes. (7)
As eye-opening as these statistics are, there is good news: You can combat the negative effects of a sedentary lifestyle by making a few simple adjustments to your daily routine. Standing and walking burn significantly-more calories than sitting, so use every opportunity you can to move around:
– Try standing or pacing during phone calls and stand as much as you can during lunch.
– If you’re job requires a lot of inter-office communication, try to do so in person rather than over the phone. Just walking back and forth between offices every now and then will break up the time spent inactive.
– Keep a cup or bottle and only fill it up a little bit at a time, that way you force yourself to get up frequently for refills.
– When you are stuck sitting in one place for long periods of time, set a reminder of some kind to help you remember to stand up and stretch periodically.
If those tactics don’t keep you moving, try these simple movements from Forbes.com (2) that you can do at your desk:
– Invisible Chair Sit: Start by lowering your seat as far as it will go. Stand in front of your chair with your feet hip’s width apart. Place your hands on your hips (or out in front of you) and lower your butt until it’s just above the seat. Then sit down as slowly as possible. Do 20 repetitions.
– Carpal Tunnel Reliever: Stand at your desk, and, arms straight, place your palms on the desk with your fingers pointed toward you. Lower your body slowly until you feel the stretch and hold for 10-15 seconds.
– Wooden Leg: Sit in your chair and extend one leg out straight in front of you. Hold for two seconds then raise it up as high as you can, and hold it again for two seconds. Repeat with each leg.
– Sitting Spinal Stretch: Sit tall in your chair, and stretch your arms toward the ceiling. Put your left hand on the desk, grab the back of the chair with your right hand and twist to the right. Hold for 10 seconds. Release and raise your arms toward the ceiling again. Then repeat the twist going the other way. Hold for 10 seconds.
– The Little Mermaid at Work: Sit upright in your chair. Hold your right wrist over your head with your left hand and pull it, stretching your right side. Return to upright posture. Take hold of your left wrist over your head with your right hand and stretch the other way. Repeat five times on each side.
Regardless of the tactics, the underlying principle is the same: get up and move more often. It’s easy to get caught up in work or television and find yourself sitting in the same position for hours at a time, but doing so presents a laundry list of health issues. However, with a small amount of awareness and a little preparation, you can escape the side-effects of idleness and start feeling the benefits of an active lifestyle.
Do you sit all day long and feel it could be detrimental to your health? Take the first step to reclaiming your health and request a consultation in the form below.
If you’re curious about seeing a chiropractor, but you’re not quite sure if it’s for you, then this article on the benefits of chiropractic care is for you.
- 1. http://www.lifehack.org/articles/lifestyle/why-sitting-is-killing-you.html
- 2. http://www.forbes.com/pictures/efkk45efdje/carpal-tunnel-reliever-2/
- 3. http://www.livescience.com/16862-prolonged-sitting-raises-breast-colon-cancer-risk.html
- 4. http://lifehacker.com/5879536/how-sitting-all-day-is-damaging-your-body-and-how-you-can-counteract-it
- 5. http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/expert-blog/sitting-disease/bgp-20056238
- 6. http://sjp.sagepub.com/content/35/5/510.abstract
- 7. http://www.prevention.com/health/diabetes/how-sitting-too-much-ups-your-diabetes-risk
- 8. http://www.ted.com/talks/nilofer_merchant_got_a_meeting_take_a_walk#t-40405