In today’s workplace, the majority of people sit for eight or more hours per day. Think your desk job isn’t affecting your health? Think again. A sedentary lifestyle, at home or work negatively impacts your health in multiple ways. Smoking, alcohol, lack of exercise and junk food are all detrimental to our health… we need to add sitting to that list as well. “Sitting diseases” are quickly lowering our lifespans and increasing our healthcare costs.
What happens when we sit?
Sitting requires little to no energy expenditure, “calorie burning drops to one per minute,” greatly reduces activation of low back muscles, “electrical activity in the legs shut off, enzymes that help break down fat drop by 90 percent.” After two hours, good cholesterol levels drop by 20 percent and after 24, insulin effectiveness drops by 24 percent; your risk of developing diabetes rises. “People with sitting jobs have twice the rate of cardiovascular disease as people with standing jobs. Sitting six-plus hours per day makes you up to 40 percent likelier to die within 15 years than someone who sits fewer than three, even if you exercise” (MedicalCoding&Billing.org). Some of us even spend more time sitting than sleeping.
Sitting affects our internal body systems negatively and our spinal musculature and strength. Remaining seated for prolonged periods of time causes our low back muscles to “take a back seat.” If the muscles aren’t working properly, other structures, ligaments and intervertebral discs must work overtime (Morl, 2012). Our trunk muscles become deconditioned and lazy. The increase in our sitting times and low back pain are related. The hip flexor muscle (iliopsoas) becomes short and tight with sitting and plays a major role in lower back pain. Lower back pain patients have “atrophy of lumbar muscles,” especially the longissimus and multifidi; inactivity and inactivation of such muscles is to blame, sitting being the main culprit (Morl, 2012). The study also found that “lumbar muscle activation does not differ when seated on an exercise ball, different dynamic office chairs or on a reference chair.” (McGill et al., 2006; Ellegast et al., 2012)
The journal, Diebetologia, performed a meta-analysis to see the correlation between sitting and disease. They concluded that “sedentary time is associated with an increased risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cardiovascular and all-cause mortality; the strength of the association is most consistent for diabetes.” (Wilmot, et al., 2012)
With obesity at an all-time high, is it because we are eating more and moving less? Obese people sit on average for 2.5 more hours a day than “thin” people. Exercise rates have stayed the same from 1980-2000, but sitting time has doubled to eight percent and consequently so have our waistlines.
Move! Don’t become a statistic
Get up at least every 30 minutes to walk, increase circulation, stretch, hydrate, etc. Set a timer on your phone/computer to remind you to get up… chances are you will forget if you don’t. Can’t leave your desk? At least stand up and move around.
Minimize sitting at home, in a meeting, at a party, on the train/bus; if you sit all day at work, then sit all night at home to “relax,” you’re not doing your body any favors. Watching TV for three hours a day increases your chances of dying from heart disease by 64 percent. If you feel it is a “necessity” to watch TV, try doing jumping jacks/squats/weight lifting/yoga moves or just standing during the show; at a minimum during the commercials. Life is too short to spend it sitting in front of the TV, slowly dying.
Take the stairs whenever possible, don’t find the closest parking spot, walk/bike instead of driving whenever possible; the hours we spend sitting in the car add up. Many offices are now transitioning to standing work stations to decrease sitting times and inevitably, health problems. Activation of the muscles in the lumbar spine will improve with movement and standing tasks; chair type will not make your back work. No chair will do the job of exercise and moving.
Movement is life.
J Electromyogr Kinesiol. 2012 Nov 1. pii: S1050-6411(12)00172-1. doi: 10.1016/j.jelekin.2012.10.002. [Epub ahead of print] Lumbar posture and muscular activity while sitting during office work. Morl F, Bradl I. Source Forschungsgesellschaft fur angewandte Systemsicherheit und Arbeitsmedizin mbH, Dubliner Strase 12, 99091 Erfurt, Germany. Electronic address: email@example.com
Physiol Meas. 2012 Nov;33(11):1887-99. doi: 10.1088/0967-3334/33/11/1887. Epub 2012 Oct 31.The measurement of sedentary patterns and behaviors using the activPAL? Professional physical activity monitor.
Dowd KP, Harrington DM, Bourke AK, Nelson J, Donnelly AE.Source Centre for Physical Activity and Health Research, University of Limerick, Limerick, Ireland.
Meta-analysisSedentary time in adults and the association with diabetes, cardiovascular disease and death: systematic review and meta-analysis E. G. Wilmot, C. L. Edwardson, F. A. Achana, M. J. Davies, T. Gorely, L. J. Gray, K. Khunti, T. Yates and S. J. H. Biddle
About the author:
Dr. Melissa Bartoszewski is a chiropractor at Estramonte Chiropractic & Wellness Center in Charlotte, NC. She is a graduate of New York Chiropractic College. Dr. Bartoszewski is also a raw food and natural healthcare advocate. Follow her on Twitter at PolishChiro and be sure to LIKE her Facebook Fan page at https://www.facebook.com/MelissaABartoszewskiDC for daily health, exercise, nutrition, wellness, chiropractic tips and much much more!