Our bodies were not designed to sit for long periods of time. We were designed for movement, yet the average workday for most Americans today involves sitting for the majority of the day. How is this chronic inactivity affecting our health?
New evidence suggests, in fact, that the more hours a day you sit, the greater your likelihood of dying an earlier death. As noted in a recent Men’s Health article, researchers studied the lifestyle habits of more than 17,000 men and women and found that the people who sat for almost the entire day were 54 percent more likely to die from a heart attack. Wow. The most surprising part of the study was that the results were true regardless of how much they exercised or how lean they were. Sitting was an entirely independent risk factor.
The effects of sitting include:
1. Screws up your posture. The fascia (which connects muscles) begins to set when you stay in one position for too long. If you’re hunched over a keyboard all day, this eventually becomes your normal posture.
2. Makes you fatter. You burn 60 more calories an hour when standing versus sitting. In addition, when you spend too much time sitting, your largest muscle group—the glutes (your butt)—become lazy and quit firing.
3. Causes neck and lower back pain. Sitting almost always involves your head being pushed forward, which can cause headaches, neck and shoulder pain. Also, weak glutes push your pelvis forward, putting increased stress on the spine.
Your body will adapt to what you do most often. If you spend the majority of the day sitting and not active, you are setting yourself up for muscle stiffness, poor balance and mobility, and lower-back, neck, and hip pain. We all know that older folks (generally) have a harder time moving around than younger people do. That’s not simply because of age; it’s because what you do consistently from day to day manifests itself over time, for both good and bad.
So, what can you do? The answer is – a simple change in how you view being fit can make all the difference. Instead of viewing “being active” as a 45 min workout in the gym, or an exercise class, view it as being active throughout the day. In other words, whenever you get the chance to include some physical activity into your day, you should.
Take small breaks as frequently as possible. Go to the bathroom. Use a smaller water cup so you have to refill it more often. Do a lap around the office. Ask for a stand-up desk. Step outside for a minute to get some fresh air. Stand while you’re talking on the phone. It all adds up, and it all matters.