Unlike your grandparents’ generation, you may spend most of your days sitting.
Your days likely begin with a commute to work in a car. Then you might sit at a desk for most of the day. You likely sit down somewhere to have lunch as well. You get back in the car yet again and head home.
On days where you feel tired or just want to relax with friends and family, you sit down around the dinner table or on the couch to watch television. Some days you might go without any exercise or physical activity at all.
As pressure mounts to fit more learning time into the school day, some children are sitting for extended periods of time as well. Recess has become more limited while sitting time has increased.
Sound familiar? The problem is the act of sitting down for extended periods of time.
Why Can Sitting For Too Long Become Problematic?
Sitting has become the scourge of modern Western society. There is mounting evidence suggesting that sitting can be hazardous to your health. You might have even heard that “sitting is the new smoking.”1 Long periods of inactivity relaxes your largest muscles. This, in turn, causes them to remove very little glucose from the blood. As a result, blood sugar might become elevated.2
Your muscles also produce an enzyme called lipoprotein lipase. This enzyme destroys fat cells circulating in your blood vessels.
When you sit for too long, your metabolism and blood circulation slow, causing this enzyme to stop being released.
Fatty acids stay in your arteries and get converted to body fat. A day’s worth of sitting results in a 90-95% reduction in lipoprotein lipase activity.
These factors can have harmful effects on your body and may trigger a host of health problems, such as weight gain.3
What Effect Can Prolonged Sitting Have On Your Body?
But the potential to gain weight is not the only cause for concern. Prolonged sitting can negatively affect your health in many ways. Some possible symptoms include:
- Muscle discomfort and stiffness
- Joint Stiffness
- Increased blood pressure and blood sugar levels
- A lead to unhealthy posture
- Neck and shoulder discomfort4
Possible Ways To Counteract The Negative Effects Of Sitting All Day
The human body is designed to move. As such, there are a multitude of ways in which you can remedy the health risks that come from sitting too much.
Stretch Your Muscles Throughout The Day
As mentioned, sitting for prolonged periods can cause muscle stiffness and discomfort. To avoid this, it’s important to take the time to stretch your muscles throughout the day.
Try taking a walk during your lunch break or getting up from your desk to do a couple quick and basic stretches. If you plan on going to the gym after work, make sure to stretch again before beginning your workout.5
One key study showed that the beneficial effects of exercise are “indisputable.” Researchers concluded that a workout routine that emphasizes certain types of exercise and training could help support physical fitness and cardiovascular health is “essential.” Consider workouts that include:
- Cardiorespiratory exercise training
- Resistance training
- Flexibility exercise and training
- Neuromotor exercise training
The researchers suggest that by moving from a sedentary lifestyle to one with enough physical activity, people will reap many physical and mental health benefits.6 If you have questions, you can ask your doctor about these exercises or talk to a trainer at your nearby fitness center.
Take Breaks Every 30 Minutes
Taking breaks helps a lot. Get up and take an active break every half-hour or so. Walk around, stretch your muscles, just don’t sit until your break is over.7 The breaks should be at least 1-2 minutes at a time.8
Take Phone Calls And Meetings While Walking
Steve Jobs was famous for taking walking meetings to have creative brainstorms.9 More than one scientific study supports the notion that walking increases creative thinking by an average of 60%. It does so by opening up the free flow of ideas.10
By moving around during the day, you might even perform better at your job. Taking phone calls while pacing about the office, or even outside, is another excellent way to move during the workday.
Use A Sit-Stand Desk To Alternate
Change your work day from a chair-based working style to one that incorporates a combination of standing and sitting. Popular alternatives include:
- Standing desks (these are now ubiquitous)
- Treadmill desks (where you walk slowly forward while you work)
- Motorized desk (that are adjustable up and down)
Leave A Glass Of Water At Your desk
Leave a small glass of water at your desk. You’ll need to refill it often, which forces you to get up and walk around.
Walk Or Bicycle To Work
If you live close enough to work, ditch the car and take your bike or walk. And when you get to work, try to use the stairs instead of the elevator.
Try Not To Sit Down During Lunch
Take your lunch break outside where you can walk around either with your lunch or after eating. If that is not workable, find a countertop away from your desk where you can stand and eat.
Less Sitting, More Moving
Sitting for extended periods of time can be hazardous to your health. Luckily, many studies provide simple workarounds to this workplace problem. They include periods of movement throughout the day as well as regular exercise. By being aware of how much time you spend sitting, you can moderate the lifestyle effects of the sedentary computer knowledge worker.