Whether you sit at a desk, behind the wheel, in front of the TV or commuting for most of the week, the effect on your health is the same. Simply put, our bodies weren’t made to sit all day. Sitting for long periods of time, even with exercise, has a negative effect on our health. What’s worse, many of us sit up to 15 hours a day. That means some of us spend the bulk of our waking moments on the couch, in an office chair, or in a car.
Why is sitting bad?
Right after you sit down, the electrical activity in your muscles slows down and your calorie-burning rate drops to one calorie per minute. This is about a third of what it does if you’re walking. If you sit for a full 24-hour period, you experience a 40 percent reduction in glucose uptake in insulin, which can eventually cause type 2 diabetes.
Sitting all day is really bad for your back and can cause an INFLEXIBLE SPINE. When we move around, soft discs between vertebrae expand and contract like sponges, soaking up fresh blood and nutrients. But when we sit for a long time, discs are squashed unevenly. Collagen hardens around supporting tendons and ligaments. Unfortunately this, puts you are risk for DISK DAMAGE. People who sit more are at greater risk for herniated lumbar disks. A muscle called the psoas travels through the abdominal cavity and, when it tightens, pulls the upper lumbar spine forward. Upper-body weight rests entirely on the ischial tuberosity (sitting bones) instead of being distributed along the arch of the spine.
Some workplaces are promoting standing desks, which unfortunately, over long periods, aren’t much better. “Prolonged standing places an additional load on your heart and circulatory system, puts a strain on your legs and feet,” says Dr Akbar de Medici. “It’s best to alternate between the two (an adjustable desk for example) and keep your body moving throughout the day.”
Moving muscles pump fresh blood and oxygen through the brain and trigger the release of all sorts of brain- and mood-enhancing chemicals. When we are sedentary for a long time, everything slows, including brain function. So you can tell your boss you are increasing productivity by moving around every hour and avoiding a foggy brain.
Sitting for long periods of time slows blood circulation, which causes fluid to pool in the legs. Problems range from swollen ankles and varicose veins to dangerous blood clots called deep vein thrombosis (DVT).
General Tips from the Compression Advisory Medical Team
• Stand at least every hour and stretch your legs (Set an Hourly Standing Alarm to Remind You to Stand)
• Sitting on something wobbly such as an exercise ball or even a backless stool to force your core muscles to work. Sit up straight and keep your feet flat on the floor in front of you so they support about a quarter of your weight.
• Do simple stretches throughout the day such as placing your hands on your lower back and stretching backwards.
• Get moving! Make conference calls on your feet or suggest a “moving meeting” — walk up and down the hall. Use a pedometer to find your baseline activity for the day and then start setting goals.
• When seated, make sure you maintain good posture with your buttocks all the way back to the chair, feet flat on the floor, head straight and with lower back naturally arched inward.
• Drink More. Refilling your bottle will require you to make more trips to the kitchen and the bathroom.
• If struggling with swollen/aching legs or you are noticing the beginnings of spider/varicose veins, wear correctly fitted graduated compression socks and consider elevating your legs on a small box under your desk. Pumping the balls of your feet off the ground can help to stimulate bloodflow as can flexing and pointing the foot.