Sitting can shorten your life

Our bodies are designed to be mobile, but like many other North Americans, we spend 7-10 hours, 5 or more days a week sitting at a computer. The results: chronic neck and back tension, headaches, tight hip flexors, quadriceps and hamstrings and a multitude of other ailments.

A 2013 Ergotron survey found that 86 percent of Americans sit all day, every day. And when they get up, 56 percent say it is for getting food. The term, “Sitting Disease” has been coined by the scientific community for referring to a problematic metabolic syndrome and the ill-effects of an overly sedentary lifestyle. In fact, the American Medical Association adopted a policy recognizing the potential risks of prolonged sitting and encouraging employers and employees to find alternatives.

I too, have been a victim of this daily ‘computer sitting’ ritual. Of course, I denied that sitting at a computer for long periods daily was the main reason for my headaches, neck aches and restless nights; I mean, I should have known better…I’m a personal trainer, work in the active aging sector and I’m a strong proponent of athletics as part of a daily regime. But, I continued to sit for hours at my desk. It’s hard to imagine such a simple, unconscious act can be so detrimental to our health but in fact, as Peter T. Katzmarzyk, Ph.D suggests there are many devastating implications from working at a desk.

Plus, you can forget the methodology of sitting all day and jamming in your fitness for an hour after work. It doesn’t actually offset the harm that we do for the amount of extended sitting we do 5-7 days a week. As Dr. Levine, Mayo clinic endocrinologist and author of “Get Up!: Why Your Chair is Killing You and What You Can do About It” suggests, there is a huge biological slowing that occurs when we sit for endless hours. He tells us that “sitting is more dangerous than smoking, kills more people than HIV and is more treacherous than parachuting.” Research has linked sitting for long periods of time to a plethora of health-related risks. And, trying to counter-balance the sitting by working out more at the end of the day, just doesn’t cut it!

So, how do working adults keep their bodies mobile, less stressed-out and reduce stiff, achy muscles when a typical office day is about 8 or more hours, most of it perched in front of a computer?

I believe it goes without saying that we have to find ways to change some of the sedentary habits we have adopted over the last few decades. We are a mobile species and we are designed to move. It may be tough for many office-denizens to incorporate new thinking into their daily regime, but as experts suggest, simply walking several times a day for 10 minutes each time will provide the desired outcome.

Take note, here is what simply getting up and moving will do for you:

  • help stabilize blood sugar
  • move muscles that pump fresh blood and oxygen through the brain and trigger the release of brain and mood enhancing chemicals
  • expand and contract the soft discs in our body’s vertebras
  • keep hips flexible and balanced
  • improve range of motion throughout the body
  • boost natural antioxidants that kill cell damaging free radicals

Just a few minutes of walking after sitting for a long period of time can restore the damage done to our vascular system. The impact of movement is profound and the added bonus is that you will burn calories which may lead to weight loss and increased energy.

Make a few easy changes to your workday: try standing when having conversations or on the phone, use a sit-stand desk, enjoy a walking-meeting with clients and colleagues, go out for lunch rather than sitting at your desk eating or just ‘take the stairs’ more often. Once you are actively moving, all your biological systems will get the kickstart they need.

Lastly, here’s 3 simple at-home exercises expert Karina Inkster suggests to help you get your ‘rear in gear’ plus keep your lower back strong and pain-free from all that sitting.