I find this title ironic, because right now I’m seated at my computer typing away of why sitting is slowly killing us. But here goes nothing. We sit a lot, more than any other time in history. In a typical day we wake up to sit back down and drink coffee, then get in our car, drive to work, to sit for extended periods of time. Now it’s noon and time for lunch so we either sit at our office and eat the food we packed or we go to a restaurant to sit down and have lunch. The afternoon rolls around and you guessed it, back at the desk from 1pm to 5pm. Time to go home so we get in our car and drive home to catch up on our phones or watch our popular TV shows. As you can see, we sit a lot, too much in fact. So how is sitting slowly killing us?
Humans are designed to be standing. Our cardiovascular system and bowel and bladder systems function more efficiently when standing. Our bones also benefit from standing upright! When we sit for extended periods of time our body retains more fats and sugars which overtime can lead to weight gain and obesity. Some studies suggest that you will need 60-75 minutes of moderate intensity exercise to combat excessive sitting. You burn on average of 50 calories more per hour by standing. If you stand for 3 hours per day, five days per week, it adds up to 750 calories burned. In a year that adds up to 30,000 calories, which is almost 9 pounds. This is the equivalent of around 10 marathons per year and standing desks can be extremely beneficial.
When we sit there is an increase of pressure on our low back. A study out of Cornell University found that 90% more pressure is applied on the low back when we sit. As we age our discs begin to lose water and start to shrink and not be as strong as they were decades ago so this pressure can cause mild to severe low back pain depending on the individual. As we mentioned before in a previous blog, when we sit for extended periods of time our hip flexors become tight and our glute muscles become weak. We won’t dive into that so check out the “Low back pain” blog for more information.
There are other negative health implications from prolonged sitting. There is an increase in Type-II diabetes, anxiety, depression, deep vein thrombosis, and even cancer. With these adverse side effects of sitting too long, it’s no surprise there is a correlation of having a shorter life span. A 2010 Australian study found that for each extra hour participants spent sitting daily during a 7-year-period, their overall risk of dying increased by 11%. A 2012 study found that if the average American reduced their sitting time to 3 hours per day, life expectancy would climb by 2 years.
If you’ve made it this far, get up and move! Ok, now that you’re back let’s talk about what you can do to avoid sitting for extended periods of time. If your employer will provide a stand-up desk, get on that ASAP. If not set reminders every 30 minutes to get up and walk around the room or office. Then if your boss keeps asking you why you’re always getting up and moving, tell them you’re just trying to be healthy and suggest a stand-up desk! Some employers won’t cover the cost of the desk which is a bummer but, it’s well worth the investment in your health. If you are always on the phone at the desk, get a wireless headset so you can stand up while you’re on the phone. When all else fails a trip to your chiropractor, physical therapist, massage therapist, or your local stretch center are great options to help your body recover from sitting.
9, R. F. M., Fiorenzi, R., 9, M., & Ryan Fiorenzi is one of the founders of Start Standing. After suffering from constant back pain for 8 years. (2021, May 9). Sitting is the new smoking. Start Standing. Retrieved January 12, 2022, from https://www.startstanding.org/sitting-new-smoking/#extended
The dangers of sitting: Why sitting is the new smoking. The dangers of sitting: why sitting is the new smoking – Better Health Channel. (n.d.). Retrieved January 12, 2022, from https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/the-dangers-of-sitting
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