If you’re reading this you might be wondering: what qualifies as sitting down too much? Am I sitting down more than I should? What are the risks? Are there risks? If I’m sitting down too much, what can I do about it? Well, hopefully I’ll have answered these questions for you by the time you’ve reached the end of this blog.
“Sitting is the new smoking!”
While this may sound like stupidly outrageous over-the-top media hype, the author of the phrase sticks by it and the facts back it up. His name is Dr James Levine and he knows his stuff about sitting down too much and what it can do to us. He goes even further to say, “Sitting is more dangerous than smoking, kills more people than HIV, and is more treacherous than parachuting.” Bit harsh, I know, but it’s backed up by a mountain of research and facts. The experts argue that sitting for as little as two continuous hours increases the risk of heart disease, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, cancer, back and neck pain and a whole list of other joint, movement and orthopaedic problems. We are sitting ourselves to death!
So let’s run ourselves through the majority of the human population’s day:
- wake up
- SIT DOWN to eat breakfast
- SIT DOWN on the way to work
- SIT DOWN at work, in front of a computer
- SIT DOWN for lunch
- SIT DOWN on the way home from work
- SIT DOWN whilst eating dinner
- SIT DOWN to watch TV
Now before I wrote that I’d never really thought about when and how much the average human being sits, and it hit home once I had to think about it. So I did some research and the average human being sits for 13 hours a day. Apart from when we are sleeping human beings are designed to MOVE! When humans evolved, if they wanted to eat they had to hunt for it or dig it up out of the ground. If they wanted to travel they had to get there by foot. Movement literally was a survival tool, if you didn’t move you didn’t survive.
Unfortunately evolution has gone and put the dampers on how much movement we do and quite frankly now we are a very lazy bunch! The problem with sitting is it’s just so god damn easy to do and seems so innocent and natural for our bodies to bend into that shape, so how could it be bad for us?
- Brain fog
- TMJD (jaw pain)
- Neck pain
- Tight chest + stiff shoulders
- Increased risk of heart disease
- Compromised diaphragm
–therefore hindered breathing pattern
- Increased risk of type 2 diabetes
- Low back pain
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Weight gain
- Tight hips
- Muscle degeneration
- Pelvic floor dysfunction
- Knee pain
- Ankle tightness and lower extremity problems in general
The typical desk jockey office worker has more musculoskeletal injuries than any other industry sector worker, including construction, metal work, and transportation workers. One researcher’s conclusion was: sitting is as much an occupational hazard as lifting heavy weights whilst working.
Inactivity, sitting and a general sedentary lifestyle have been researched in depth over the last two decades and the media is starting to catch up. With a couple of recent TV programmes released about inactivity and medicine, sitting down too much has been a topic of conversation with many of my clients. As a Personal Trainer it seems common sense to me that moving helps everything; after I train I feel better than before I did, if I walk when I wake up I feel better for the rest of the day, if I’m just generally active throughout the day I feel better by the end of the day, but too often with the clients and non-clients I’ve spoken to about this it comes as a shock to the system that moving a lot helps.
They needed justification and proof from these TV shows that waking up 15 minutes earlier to go for a stroll was worth it, or that walking to the shops rather than driving makes a difference, or taking the stairs rather than the escalators… I could go on.
So now I’ve got to the, “What do I do about it?” part. You’re probably expecting me to tell you to book in to see someone at Potential Personal Training and we’ll be able to sort you out, or to see an osteopath or chiropractor for an hour a week. Well, I’m not!
Most studies prove that the effects of long term sitting aren’t reversible through exercise or other good habits. This means that if you eat well and workout religiously for an hour a day but then sit for most of your waking hours, the sitting down will chip away or even cancel out all of your hard earned efforts at the gym. So you could work out every day, eat like a champion and still be considered a sedentary person? Yes! which makes sense really, if you train for 5 hours a week but then sit at a desk for 40, how can you expect that 5 hours to overrule how you spend most of your time, which is sitting down.
The solution… don’t sit down! Stand up workstations are the answer to your problem. How to incorporate them into your daily routine I’ll save for another day but let me explain how much standing rather than sitting makes a difference. A study was done between office workers and waiters and waitresses. They measured their NEAT calories (non exercise activity thermogenesis) which basically means the calories you burn throughout the day, not from a scheduled exercise session. Waiters and waitresses burned an average 1,000 more calories a day, sometimes more.
So to conclude… sitting (sedentary lifestyle) is our fourth biggest preventable killer, causing an estimated 3.2 million deaths a year. So if you’ve taken the time to SIT DOWN and read this, please get up and get moving!