Posted On November 24, 2015

graphic with stick man doing stretches

If you added up how long you sit down in a typical day, it might surprise you.

If you have an office job, you could be sitting at a desk for most of the working day. When you’re absorbed in your work, it’s easy for a couple of hours to go by without even getting up from your chair.

Then there’s the commute to and from the office, where you might be sat in the car or the train for perhaps another hour or more.

And once you get home, do you like to collapse in from of the TV for an hour or two to unwind?

Me too. But that’s a lot of sitting, and it’s not good for us. Not at all.

Prolonged sitting is a modern disease

This sedentary lifestyle has crept up on us over the years. Desk jobs have become the norm and screens of various types encourage us to sit still and stare for hours on end. In recent years, increased workloads and reliance on computers for communication and entertainment as well as work keeps us sitting for long periods of time.

A number of studies have already found that physical inactivity increases the risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, and even certain cancers.

“For people who sit most of the day, their risk of heart attack is about the same as smoking.” Martha Grogan, Cardiologist, Mayo Clinic.

Even those of us who take regular exercise are not immune from the side effects of a mostly sedentary life.

Earlier this year, a report in the Annals of Internal Medicine by the American College of Physicians found that prolonged sitting caused ill health regardless of physical activity. The researchers came to their conclusion after analysing 47 existing studies that showed sedentary behaviour can lead to death from cardiovascular issues and cancer and cause chronic conditions like Type 2 diabetes.

This is something that Chiropractor Dr. Andrew Richards of Better Health in Sydney knows all too well.

“We need to abolish the idea that sedentary behaviour is synonymous with not exercising. There are many of us who train hard to stay fit but still spend a large portion of our days sat down.

“You can’t starve your brain, joints, organs and tissues of movement for hours on end and then think that a good half-hour workout, or longer, will undo all the damage.”

Moving towards a solution

Some organisations, particularly in the US, are implementing stand-up desks in an attempt to alleviate the ‘sitting disease’. You can even invest in a treadmill desk if you’re so inclined.

But aside from the gimmicky furniture, just getting away from your desk can make a big difference to your overall health.

A recent study led by Dr. Srinivasan Beddhu, a professor of medicine at the University of Utah, found that as little as two minutes of gentle walking during each seated hour lowered the risk of premature death by about 33% over those who stayed seated.

Don’t forget your brain muscle

Getting up and away from your desk is important for your brain too. A sedentary lifestyle forces you to focus for longer and this can be mentally and physically draining. Taking a break can help clear your mind.

Ready to step up?

If you’d like to make a few positive changes, Dr. Richards suggests the following tips help you out of a sedentary lifestyle and into better health:

  • Take two-minute stretch breaks every 20 minutes
  • Try standing during meetings instead of sitting
  • Wherever possible, make choices that involve the most movement, such as taking the stairs instead of the lift or getting up from your desk to speak with someone instead of emailing or using the phone. Even try to get through the weekend without using the car for a change
  • After dinner, take a walk instead of sitting in front of the TV
  • Take up yoga and practice a little every day
  • Keep your regular chiropractic check-ups
  • Get a massage regularly
  • If you read, do it in a good recliner or lying down with a pillow under your knees and a good pillow for neck support. This will take the pressure off your spine and help with lymphatic drainage.

Don’t take good health sitting down, get up and go for it!

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