As technology and our ways of working and learning have evolved over the decades, so too has our physical movement (or lack thereof). Whether we’re watching TV, taking an online class, or on a Zoom meeting, chances are we’re sitting down. But sitting, especially for extended periods, can significantly impact our health.
You may have heard that “sitting is the new smoking,” and in this article, we’ll explore how a sedentary lifestyle can hurt your health and what you can do about it.
4 Ways Sitting is Impacting Your Health
- Weight gain. Sedentary behavior often correlates with weight gain because sitting burns fewer calories than standing or engaging in physical activity. And if you’re settling in for a binge of your favorite show or a gaming session, that prolonged sitting can lead to overeating and unhealthy snacking habits.
- Musculoskeletal issues. When sitting for long periods, you may find yourself in an uncomfortable chair or lying awkwardly on the couch. This can lead to muscle imbalances, poor posture, and back, neck, and shoulder pain. It can also weaken the muscles that support the spine, leading to an increased risk of injury.
- Increased risk of chronic diseases. When you’re sitting, your body accumulates excess calories that deposit as fat and can lead to obesity. Combined with a sedentary lifestyle, that can contribute to the risk of developing insulin resistance, the most important factor for type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome. Studies have also linked excessive sitting with an increased risk of heart disease and certain types of cancer.
- Reduced circulation: Sitting for extended periods can impair blood circulation and lead to conditions such as deep vein thrombosis or blood clots, particularly in the legs. Once a clot forms in a vein, it can travel to the heart and lungs, forming a pulmonary embolism which can cause shortness of breath, chest pain, and even death.
Strategies to Combat a Sedentary Lifestyle
Since the average office worker sits 15 hours a day (and more for those with long commutes), it can seem like a daunting task to overcome the effects of prolonged sitting. But the good news is that you can employ a few tips and tricks to counteract the negative health impacts of a sedentary lifestyle.
- Take frequent breaks with movement. Take regular breaks from sitting, ideally every 30 minutes, to stand up, stretch, and move around for a few minutes. Set reminders or use smartphone apps to help you remember.
- Use a standing desk or adjustable workstation. If possible, switch to a standing desk or use a workstation that allows you to alternate between sitting and standing throughout the day.
- Get more exercise. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate to intense aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity per week. Include activities such as walking, jogging, cycling, swimming, or any exercise you enjoy. Additionally, incorporate strength training exercises at least two days a week.
- Break up sitting time. Even with a desk job, you can find ways to break up prolonged sitting. For example, have walking meetings, stand while talking on the phone, or walk to a coworker’s office instead of calling or emailing.
- Maintain good posture. Be conscious of your posture while sitting and standing. Try to sit with your back straight, shoulders relaxed, and feet flat on the floor. Ergonomic chairs and adjustments to your workstation can help support proper posture.
- Perform stretching and mobility exercises. Stretching and mobility exercises can help counteract the muscle imbalances caused by sitting. Focus on exercises that target your neck, shoulders, back, hips, and legs.
You Can Change Your Lifestyle
Remember, you’re in control of your health, and any increase in physical activity and reduction in sitting time can positively impact your well-being. It’s important to find a balance between sitting, standing, and moving throughout the day to combat the negative effects of a sedentary lifestyle.
If you’re looking to combat your sedentary lifestyle and could use some extra support, reach out to Forge. Our team of certified trainers can create a custom workout routine to keep you moving throughout the day and help you achieve your goals.