Think About How Much You Actually Sit.

Most of us will spend at least 8 hours a day sitting, either at work, around the house, or commuting. For some, even more time is spent sitting. Our society has become a sitting society; sitting for just about everything. Instead of moving throughout the day we have to plan specific times to exercise for balance.  

All of this sitting is affecting our health. Recently there have been numerous research studies about how sitting is impacting that health. One of these studies compared the effects of smoking to sitting, and, of course, neither one showed any positive health benefits. They even stated that sitting might be worse for us then smoking. And no, I don't want you to start smoking.

Some of the health concerns of sitting include organ damage to the heart/cardiovascular system, pancreas, and colon. The lack of movement does not exercise the heart nor does it help with keeping healthy arteries and veins which can then lead to atherosclerosis. As we are talking about the cardiovascular system let's not forget that sitting puts pressure on the legs, and especially the veins; thus leading to more varicose veins. Getting up and walking throughout the day can help to combat the health issues associated with sitting. Colon cancer is not the only cancer with increased risk from sitting. The exact mechanism is unknown, but might be related to the pancreas putting out more insulin as we sit.

There are also structural issues that arise with prolonged sitting. Take a moment to look at how you are currently sitting. I know I am not using proper posture as I write this blog sitting on my couch cross legged. My head is in front of my shoulders, thus putting more pressure on the neck and shoulder muscles which can lead to headaches, neck pain, and tight shoulders. On the other half of the body the hips and gut muscles are not designed to be sitting all day. Watch yourself after you get up from sitting for a while, how do your hips respond? I often watch my patients needing to wiggle it out after sitting. I sometimes find myself doing the same after an initial appointment with a patient which can sometimes be longer than 2 hours in some cases.

So how do we support the body with the work/life constraints of needing to sit, or be stationary? I think one thing to look at, and consider, is how can you move more? Can you get a standing desk at work, or at least a computer standing desk station. Something to bring your monitor and keyboard up to standing height. Something else to try is instead of emailing your co-worker can you go to them in person? How about a meeting that is a walking meeting rather than a traditional sit down. These simple changes can have lasting impacts on your health as well as the health of your co-workers, or employees.

I know at the end of a long day I want to sit down and relax because I am mentally and emotionally tired, but physically my body often wants to move. To help combat this, I have started marching in place while I am watching TV or movies (yes to get my 10K steps with my Fitbit). Instead of having a living room of comfortable furniture why not have a living room full of exercise equipment, or just empty space where you and your family can move around, stretch, and generally keep from sitting. Now that you have just read this blog sitting down, get up and move!