Did you know that since 1950, sedentary jobs have increased 83 percent and now, physically active jobs only account for about 20 percent of the U.S. workforce? And what’s more is that an average week for U.S. workers includes about 47 hours – every week.1
The problem with this extra-long work week is that most people spend that time sitting behind a desk. Researchers have found that this type of sedentary lifestyle is directly associated with an increased risk of all-cause mortality, in both men and women.2,3
What’s a Workforce to Do?
Today, if you are working an average work week in America, you are probably doing it in a sedentary position. Whether you are driving a truck, or typing at a desk, here are just five of the health problems you may encounter:
When you sit for extended periods of time, your body tends to lose circulation. Over time, this can result in damage to major organs, including your heart, pancreas, colon, and more.
When you sit, your muscles lack the flowing blood and oxygen to major organs – and that includes your brain, too. When you remain sedentary, everything inside will slow down. This may lead to sore muscles and brain fog.
Neck & Back Strain
Sore shoulders and back muscles are just the beginning. When you work in a sedentary position, the tiny discs between the spinal bones can become compacted and squished down. This may cause permanent disk damage for people at any vertebrae level in the neck or back.
Loss of Venous Integrity
As you sit, your body enters a resting state in which blood circulation slows. This can cause pooling of blood and fluid in the legs, contributing to everything from swollen ankles to varicose veins, and even blood clots.4
How to Combat the Sedentary Lifestyle With Good Posture
With so many health risks associated with a long, sedentary work week, you may be wondering, “What can I do?” Scientists have recommended adjusting your posture to increase blood flow and reduce your risk of potentially serious health problems.
Here are three scientifically recommended solutions to improve posture during the workday.
1. Do Not Lean Forward
Your employer may have already provided a chair for you, but that doesn’t mean that it will support your good posture. If your chair allows you to lean back, or you find that you are leaning forward, you may need a new chair. An exercise ball chair or a backless stool are the best options for boosting better posture.
2. Get UP
Don’t allow a long to-do list to keep you from getting up and moving around. Remember, poor circulation is one of the leading causes of health problems associated with the sedentary lifestyle. So, every 2-3 hours, stand up and work at your desk. If you are stuck in a sedentary job that does not include a desk, stop for a standing or walking break every few hours to avoid loss of circulation and an increased risk of health problems.
A quick stretch can really help to improve your sitting posture. As your back, neck, and muscles begin to tire in the sitting position, you may want to stretch out a little. Don’t fight the feeling! Here is a simple stretch you can do just about anywhere:
Cat Pose: Get on the ground and place your hands so you are on all fours. Then arch your back up towards the sky, and switch to lift your head and tailbone towards the ceiling. You will look like a cat as you perform this yoga stretch.
Note: If you cannot perform this at your workplace you can still do it seated. Simply reach for your toes to arch the back upward and then release, and push out your belly.
Health experts have known for years that sitting too much is bad, but until recently, scientists didn’t really know just how bad. With so many challenges in the fast-paced world we live in, don’t forget to take time out to care for yourself. Try these three simple exercises to improve your posture anytime you find yourself stuck in a chair, to reduce your health risks.
For more exercise tips, keep reading here:
1. The Price of Inactivity. American Heart Association.
2. Rebecca Seguin, PhD, David M. Buchner, MD.
The Women’s Health Initiative. Sedentary Behavior and Mortality in Older Women. February 2014. Volume 46, Issue 2, Pages 122–135
3. Physical activity and all-cause mortality across levels of overall and abdominal adiposity in European men and women: the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition. AJCN. January 14, 2015.
4. The health hazards of sitting. Washington Post. Jan. 20, 2014