Living is easy in the era where everything we need or want is available by a simple press of a button. Thanks to fast-paced technological development, we now have the luxury of sitting through our work hours clicking buttons to control machines that do our job for us, until it is time to sit behind the wheel and drive back home, where we will probably sit some more in front of the TV. The bad news, however, is that sitting is a major factor that contributes to the development of diseases of affluence: with all that chair-time, our muscles and skeletal structure deteriorate, circulation slows down and blood pressure goes up, increasing the risk of heart disease and various other health problems. Yes, it is true: sitting is more dangerous than smoking and you are probably not aware of the amount of damage you are doing to your body by sticking to the ugly habit. Are we all in fact passive sitters? Here are some facts about the negative health effects of a sedentary lifestyle and a few suggestions on how to minimize the impact of lengthy sitting sessions on your well-being.
Health in the hot chair: What sitting does to your body
Sitting at a desk for hours on end slows down the exchange of matter in the body. Since muscles are burning little or no fat, the cardiovascular system becomes more susceptible to clogs as fat builds up in blood vessels. This translates as increased blood sugar, pressure and cholesterol, greater risk of heart disease, diabetes, obesity and even some forms of cancer. Other hazards of a sedentary lifestyle include limp core, leg and glute muscles, weakened bones, soreness in the shoulder, neck and lower back areas, sluggish brain functions, spinal problems and increased risk of herniated lumbar discs – talk about your health slowly frying in the hot seat!
Workout at Work – Low Impact Total Body Chair Workout Routine
The sitting scale: How much is too much
Although an average American with an 8-hour office shift may not have lots of room for dynamic movement during work hours, research has shown that increasing active time to 2-4 hours outside the office can reduce the negative health effects of sitting. An article published in the Wall Street Journal recommends that people locked to the office chair intersperse seated time and movement by sitting for 20 minutes, then standing for 8 minutes and stretching or walking around for another 2 minutes. Or, if you cannot interrupt your workflow or do not have the option to stretch and twist around the workplace, you can switch to a standing desk or replace your regular chair with a backless stool or stability ball that will keep your core muscles engaged as you are busying away at your PC.
Step up workout routine: Make up for lost time
Once your work is done for the day, do not go around complaining about strained back muscles and sore shoulders – instead, use the time you have to move as much as possible. Hit the gym and hire a personal trainer, sign up for a yoga class or dancing lessons, or take up a recreational sport that will strengthen your muscle and bones, improve your posture and speed up blood flow. Cycling and walking to and from work are healthy and green alternatives to a regular car commute, and they are also good for your budget. Around 30 minutes of physical activity a day is a must for people whose line of work combines standing and sitting, while folks whose jobs have an exclusively sedentary description should strive to incorporate at least 1-1.5 hours of activity into their daily routine.
Science is clear: sitting is the new smoking, and it kills more people than HIV. Do not let your health be a job collateral – the human body is designed to be active, not idle. Use it or lose it – your well-being is in your hands (and legs, too).