STAND Up for Your Health!
Recent research suggests that too much sitting on a long term basis can be harmful to your health and can lead to obesity, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, disease, and even premature death.
Sitting for long hours not only reduces aerobic capacity, it slows down the metabolism affecting our ability to regulate blood sugar. It affects our musculoskeletal system causing the muscles of the lower back, hamstrings and glutes to tighten, therefore limiting movement and reducing muscle tone. Over a period of time, this puts excess pressure on the lumbar spine causing pain and fatigue. Sitting often causes slouching, poor posture, tightening of the muscles of the neck and upper back and sometimes causes headaches. If you’re one of those people who sits all day and then runs to the gym for a workout, you should still be concerned because, although exercising is better than coming home and plopping on the sofa, it still will not reverse the harmful effects of sitting all day! Unfortunately in our modern society, we spend too much time sitting and less time moving around and standing. So what is considered sitting ‘too much’ and if you have a job that requires sitting, should you be concerned?
According to the Mayo Clinic, “One recent 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.”
Whether it’s sitting at work, driving a car, watching television, or reading a book, sitting for long periods is proving to be a health hazard, raising our risk for diseases. The following are suggestions to reduce your sitting time.
Use a standing desk: Especially for home. If this is not possible for work, set an alarm to remind you to get up every 30 minutes and move. At home, place your computer/laptop on a higher table so that you would have to stand to use it and not sit.
Have ‘walking’ meetings: At work, instead of sitting in an office for a meeting, have a walking meeting. If the weather allows, go outdoors or find a long corridor indoors where you can meet, talk and walk at the same time.
Don’t sit for extended periods of time to watch TV: According to the American Council on Exercise, “watching less than 2 hours of television per day can add 1.4 years to your life.” If you have to watch TV, do a household chore that requires standing—or exercise!—while watching TV. The same applies when you’re talking on the phone.
Park your car about half a mile away from work and walk: If this is not possible every day then at least aim for most working days of the week.
Strategically place items away from you at the office: Instead of having everything around you within easy reach, place items such as the phone, certain files and documents away from you so that you are forced to get up and move.
Be mindful of how much you’re sitting: This can only happen if you are conscientious and continually making an effort!
[Aarti Patel serves as the columnist for Fitness Lifestyle. She has a B.Sc. in Health Information Administration and is certified by the American Council on Exercise as a Personal and Group Fitness Instructor, and Lifestyle and Weight Management Coach. She can be reached at (404)-376-5655; firstname.lastname@example.org. This column rotates monthly along with the Ask the Doctor column by Gulshan Harjee, M.D.]
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