Sitting and Your Health (you may want to stand up to read this)
It seems everywhere we turn we are hearing about the adverse physical effects of too much sitting. For most of us, this conjures up images of “couch potatoes”, snacking on chips while watching TV. What we don’t realize is that, if we really think about it, the majority of us spend most of our day in sedentary positions which is severely impacting our health in a negative manner.
Most of us wake up in the morning after sleeping in a bed all night. Then, we sit to eat, read the paper, and have our coffee. On our way to work, we sit in the car. Once at the office, we sit at our desk. We sit to eat lunch, we sit to drive home, and we sit to eat dinner. After dinner, we sit to watch our favorite shows and then end the day back in bed. That is A LOT of sitting! Even for the fitness focused individual who is diligent to get in a daily workout, the amount of sitting that is experienced during the day is far too much!
According to the National Institutes for Health, the increased mortality risk associated with increased sitting is evident in those who were “physically active”, and to a larger degree in those who were considered “sedentary”1. This same study cites an Australian research study which demonstrated that each hourly increment in TV watching was associated with an 11% increase in all-cause mortality, and an 18% increased risk of cardiovascular disease mortality. In addition, a recent US study that followed 7,744 men for 21 years found that those who spend 10 or more hours a week in an automobile and more than 23 hours of combined TV and automobile time per week, had an 82% higher risk of dying from cardiovascular disease.
Our current culture has fostered these sitting behaviors, and most of us aren’t aware how much time we spend in seated or sedentary positions. So what are we to do?
First, start slow.
Don’t jump into the deep end of the pool right away. Vowing to stand all day is a great way to end up here at Vita for Physical Therapy! Instead, begin by integrating standing and movement into your daily life.
At The Office:
- Add in movement and standing breaks every hour. Set an alarm to go off every 55 minutes, and give yourself at least 5 minutes of standing and movement during each hour.
- Stand up for phone calls
- Send items to print at a printer that requires a short walk
- Walk to speak to your coworkers instead of emailing if possible
- Add in a walk at lunch, even 5 to 10 minutes makes a huge difference
- Drink a lot of water (you’ll have to use the bathroom more which will force you to get up)
- Park further away from the door
- Create workstations of differing heights so you can sit for periods and stand for others (there are some inexpensive options available for laptop computers on amazon.com)
- Take a walk BEFORE going in the house, even if it is just around the block
- Take an after dinner walk- it helps with digestion
- Stretch on the floor while watching TV
- Sit on an exercise ball for meals and if watching TV
- Spread out items in your kitchen so you have to walk more during meal prep
- Stand for everyday tasks such as folding laundry, ironing, paying bills, online shopping or checking email
- Hold a wall sit while brushing your teeth in the morning and at night
While none of these recommendations on their own seem like a huge fitness commitment, they all add up! In our “all or nothing” society, it is important to remember that the small choices we make every day are what combine to make up a happy, healthy lifestyle. If you are interested in other ways to improve your health and wellness, Vita Physical Therapy and Fitness is here for you. No matter where your health is today, we will help you get to where you want to be.
Written by Colleen Baughn, OTR, CES
- Owen, N., Healy, G. N., Matthews, C. E., & Dunstan, D. W. (2010). Too Much Sitting: The Population-Health Science of Sedentary Behavior. Exercise and Sport Sciences Reviews, 38(3), 105–113. doi:10.1097/JES.0b013e3181e373a2