A lot of us who work desk jobs, sit down for at least 8 hours a day – that’s 40 hours a week.
We’re not stupid though, right? We’re all aware that this is pretty bad news for our health, but do we know just how bad it is...?
“If you’ve been sitting for 30 minutes or more you’ve been sitting too long,” warns physical activity expert David Dunstan.
Here’s just a handful of problems that prolonged sitting can lead too:
This one is hardly surprising really – just look at Wall-e! When we are seated our body movement and activity is at an absolute minimum. So if you’re anything like me, and spend all day snacking on office treats and drinking multiple mochas (we have a free coffee machine) then eventually your clothes are going to start feeling a bit tight, because you’re not using or burning any of that energy and fat you’re consuming.
Wow, that escalated quickly right? According to a study in the Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise journal, those of us who sit down for most of the day are 54% more likely to die from heart attacks. And that’s regardless of other factors:
“We see it in people who smoke and people who don’t…We see it in people who are regular exercisers and those who aren’t. Sitting is an independent risk factor.” – Professor Peter Katzmarzyk
Basically, it doesn’t matter if you exercise in the evenings or eat healthily all of the time – sitting down all day, every day at work will still put you more at risk.
In a three-year survey of 25,000 workers by researchers at Chiba University in Japan, they discovered that repeatedly sitting down in front of a computer for prolonged periods of time can result in depression.
The results, published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine, showed that 1 in 4 staff spent at least 5 hours a day at their desk. These same staff saw a dramatic increase of developing psychological disorders.
It’s not just sitting down all day, but the way that we sit which also causes problems. More than half of UK workers (51%) have suffered from back pain, with one in five of them needing time off work as a result.
Slumping and leaning into your screen causes forward head syndrome – where your neck muscles shorten and thicken causing headaches as well as arm pains.
Bad posture also eradicates the natural s-shape of the spine, leading to back problems.
A number of studies have shown that prolonged sitting is linked to an increased risk if heart disease, diabetes and early death.
“Smoking certainly is a major cardiovascular risk factor and sitting can be equivalent in many cases” explained Dr David Coven in Health Watch.
Coven explains that when we sit down, our bodies go into ‘storage mode’. When this happens, it stops working as effectively as it should.
When you slump in a chair, your abdominal muscles go unused, your hip muscles become short and tight, and your glutes do absolutely nothing.
This leads to poor posture, limited range of motion and overall degeneration of your muscles.
Prolonged sitting can cause a build-up of fluid in the leg veins, known as venous congestion.
You also have the risk of developing a blood clot, which can be deadly if it travels to your heart or lungs (Exactly what happened to NBC news reporter David Bloom).
Chronic kidney disease is a condition where the kidneys cannot properly filter blood, leading to waste build-up within the body and eventually kidney failure.
A study by the National Institutes of Health, published in the American Journal of Kidney Diseases shows that women were able to lower their risk of chronic kidney disease by sitting fewer hours a day. This risk fell by more than 30% when they cut sitting time from 8 hours to just 3 hours a day.
Similarly with men, who saw a 15% decrease risk of chronic kidney disease when reducing the amount of time spent sat down per day.
And the list keeps going, but I’m not going to include any more doom and gloom here (I think you get the overall gist).
It doesn’t matter. Research shows that even if you are physically active and do 30 minutes or more of exercise a day, you’d still be unable to completely avoid the health risks associated with sitting down all day.
I mean, let’s think about it. I’ll share with you my average weekly schedule from a Monday to Friday (no judging):
9:00am – 12:00pm: 3 hours sitting at my desk in front of a computer
12:00pm – 1:00pm: 1 hour sitting down and eating lunch, browsing on computer
1:00pm – 5:00pm: 4 hours sitting at my desk working on computer
6:00pm – 7:00pm: Gym
8:00pm – 11:00pm: 3 hours sitting down watching TV/Reading
Despite going to the gym, I’ve still spent a total of 11 hours sitting down, and as we know, that’s not doing me a lot of good.
No, that would be ever-so-slightly over dramatic. But there are some things I can try to do to ensure that I break the sitting habit, even if it’s just by a little bit.
A somewhat obvious answer, is to spend less time sitting down and more time standing up. Standing desks are slowly becoming more popular, with big names including AOL, Google, Twitter and Facebook integrating them into their workspaces. See how ReadWrite coped when switching to standing desks for one week.
Another option is to alternate between sitting and standing at your work station. There’s a collection of adjustable desks available already, and it’s a bit nicer than a fully standing desk, as it gives you the ability to sit down on particularly tired days (like Mondays).
If your boss doesn’t like the idea of standing (get him to read this article!) or it’s just not an option for you, try something like StandApp. StandApp is a mobile and desktop application which uses alarms to remind us when to take standing breaks from our desks during work hours.
That word’s been floating about for a while now – but what does it actually mean?
If you were to look up “ergonomic” in the dictionary, you’d be given the following definition: Designed to minimize physical effort and discomfort, and hence maximize efficiency.
To be considered ergonomic, chairs should have a series of adjustable elements, including:
These adjustments allow for complete sitting control and support, which can help lessen the dangers of sitting and relieve back and neck pains.
Everyone is different and therefore one chair isn’t suitable for everyone. Fully-adjustable ergonomic chairs can be altered to suit each person’s personal sitting requirements.
Simple yoga-based stretches align your spine and help to improve extension and flexion in your back.
A great place to start is with the ‘cow’ and ‘cat’ poses. Start on all fours with your back flat and your eyes focused on the floor. As you exhale, round your spine ‘like a cat’, dropping your head and tucking your chin toward your chest. Inhale, then arch your back toward the floor, lifting your hips, tailbone and chest towards the ceiling, looking upwards as well.
According to the founder of Athletes Yoga in Tempe, Arizona following this sequence two or three times a week will keep your back strong.
Let us know your thoughts on this subject, by commenting. Do you have any experiences with problems caused by sitting down? Do you have any more tips to add to our list?