Sitting and Posture
One major detriment to long periods of sitting is the effect on your posture, flexibility, mobility, and joint health. Probably the biggest single problem from sitting all day is back pain and signs of deteriorating spine health. This is brought on by gravity, of course, but also a progressive tightening of the hip muscles from the lack of movement while hinged at the hips for long periods. When you exercise after sitting all day, the hips need to move, but their natural mobility is limited by muscle tightness. That movement needs to come somewhere, so it comes from the spine and the result is pain.
What are the risks of sitting too much?
Research has linked sitting for long periods of time with a number of health concerns, including obesity and metabolic syndrome - a cluster of conditions that includes increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist and abnormal cholesterol levels. Too much sitting also seems to increase the risk of death from cardiovascular disease and cancer.
One study compared adults who spent less than two hours a day in front of the TV or other screen-based entertainment with those who logged more than four hours a day of recreational screen time. Those with greater screen time had:
A nearly 50 percent increased risk of death from any cause
About a 125 percent increased risk of events associated with cardiovascular disease, such as chest pain (angina) or heart attack
The increased risk was separate from other traditional risk factors for cardiovascular disease, such as smoking or high blood pressure.
Sitting in front of the TV isn't the only concern. Any extended sitting - such as behind a desk at work or behind the wheel - can be harmful. What's more, spending a few hours a week at the gym or otherwise engaged in moderate or vigorous activity doesn't seem to significantly offset the risk.
Get Out of That Chair, Even if You Skip the Gym
There has also been a lot of scientific discussion of these types of health risks, posed by being sedentary for long periods. Right now you might be thinking, "Well this doesn't apply to me, I get plenty of exercise after work and I keep myself fit." But is that enough? A recent study in Diabetologia indicates that exercising after work isn't enough to prevent disease. Long periods of sitting were associated with diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and death - even for those who got exercise at other times of the day.
The solution seems to be less sitting and more moving overall. You might start by simply standing rather than sitting whenever you have the chance or think about ways to walk while you work. For example:
Stand while talking on the phone or eating lunch.
If you work at a desk for long periods of time, try a standing desk - or improvise with a high table or counter.
Walk laps with your colleagues rather than gathering in a conference room for meetings.
Position your work surface above a treadmill - with a computer screen and keyboard on a stand or a specialized treadmill-ready vertical desk - so that you can be in motion throughout the day.
The impact of movement - even leisurely movement - can be profound. For starters, you'll burn more calories. This might lead to weight loss and increased energy. Even better, the muscle activity needed for standing and other movement seems to trigger important processes related to the breakdown of fats and sugars within the body. When you sit, these processes stall - and your health risks increase. When you're standing or actively moving, you kick the processes back into action.
If you are concerned about your posture, ask Dr Parks to perform a posture exam. We use chiropractic, massage and rehabilitative stretches to improve neuromuscular function and posture.
1. E. G. Wilmot, et. al., " Sedentary time in adults and the association with diabetes, cardiovascular disease and death: systematic review and meta-analysis," Diabetologia, 2012, 55:11
2. Geert M Rutten, et. al., " Interrupting long periods of sitting: good STUFF," International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 2013, 10:1