Take An Hourly Body Break to Stretch and Refresh
Are You Sitting Too Much?
After a long day of sitting at the office, commuting for two hours and eating dinner, you are thinking of sitting on the couch and watching your favorite TV series on Netflix for the next 3 to 4 hours. Think again! All that sitting adds up and it is not good for you.
Here’s Your Wake-Up Call
Over the past few years, major research studies on the effects of long-term sitting have come up with some very disturbing findings. All those hours sitting at your desk, in your car and on your couch are adding up to serious problems for your health. Even more alarming, all that sitting may end up killing you.
The Research Results are Sobering
Toronto researchers analyzed a number of different international studies regarding the long-term effects of sitting and concluded that the longer you sit during the day the greater your risk of developing heart disease, diabetes, cancer and death. What is most startling is that even if you participate in a regular fitness routine outside of work you are still at risk for developing serious health problems. The cumulative negative effects of sitting are so dangerous that over time it could actually lead to your death. As I described in my last post, sitting is now considered the new smoking!
How Sitting is Harming Your Health
Why is long-term sitting so bad for you? This excellent TED talk video on why sitting is so bad for you details the problems that can occur to your body when you sit for too long. There are numerous concerns but I’d like to focus on the effects on breathing and circulation. As the day progresses your spinal muscles fatigue and your back starts to slouch. This slouching posture diminishes your ability to breathe fully as it puts more pressure on your chest cavity. As a result your breathing space is diminished and your oxygen intake is far less efficient. To make matters worse, the longer you sit, the poorer your blood circulation. You now have less blood coursing through your arteries which means less blood to your extremities and your brain. This all adds up to a brain that craves more oxygen. As a consequence you feel more sluggish, more fatigued and it’s harder to focus. Does this ever happen to you midday to late afternoon? At a meeting? Or driving? Poor concentration and a “fatigued brain” are strong symptoms of oxygen-poor blood. To be clear, there are other reasons for brain fatigue, but sitting for too long is a definite conspirator!
No Wonder Your Body’s Suffering
The research results on the hazards and ill effects of long-term sitting are not surprising to me. I see these harmful effects in my patients on a daily basis: Wrist, elbow and shoulder pain from repeated tasks on keyboards; acute and chronic back pain as a result of weak and stiff spinal muscles; and poor conditioning which spirals into cardiac and respiratory conditions. Significantly, many of these problems evolve over time and suddenly, pain develops and people don’t understand it. Looking for a culprit? Stand up right now and look at your seat. That’s a good place to start. Does it support you well? Are you sitting properly? Are you feeling pain in different areas after sitting for hours? Have you considered a standing desk?
Our bodies are not happy with us and we are getting the message. It is time to seriously look at how much time you are sitting and find solutions to prevent these perils to your health. One of the best things you can do today is to start taking brief hourly breaks. Whether you're sitting or standing, stop what you're doing and take a short walk. Try to do some neck turns, shoulder shrugs and knee lifts. Move your arms, hands and fingers. The motion will refresh your joints and boost your circulation. Try to stand a little taller and consider your posture. Take a couple of deep relaxing breaths. A brief break for a minute each hour will refresh you and make you more productive. Try it! I’ll tell you more about preventing the ill effects of long-term sitting in my next post.