Is Sitting the New Smoking?

We all know that smoking can result in an increased risk of disease such as cancer and heart disease but did you know that sitting for too much time can also have a profound effect on your health?  Sitting can result in not only postural changes but an increased risk of diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

Postural kyphosisThere is more research indicating that sitting is bad for health.  It is also shown that even individuals who engage in healthy exercise regimens are not immune to the negative health effects of prolonged sitting.  This is a problem today because most people have a lifestyle that is full of sitting; sedentary jobs, lengthy commutes, too much time watching television and social gatherings where we are sitting for extended periods of time.

What is the impact of prolonged sitting?

  • Neck and back pain. This happens because the act of sitting places significant pressure on the spine.
  • Postural kyphosis. This is a posture in which your head tips forward and your shoulders round forward.  This is another condition that leads to neck and back pain.
  • Tight hamstrings. (The muscles that run from the back of your pelvis to the back of your knees) Shortened hamstrings can also lead to low back pain.
  • Muscle degeneration. Muscles weaken when they are not used and sitting does not require too much work from them.
  • Diabetes and heart disease. You burn less calories compared to standing which will counteract any weight loss plan.  Obesity is directly related to diabetes and heart disease.
  • Although the mechanism is not known, researchers believe there is an increased risk of cancer for those who sit for prolonged periods of time.  This includes an increased risk of breast, colon and endometrial cancer.

Postural kyphosisWhat can you do?

  • Get up at least every hour and walk around your work environment. Take the longest route to the water cooler or the copy machine.
  • Try to arrange “walk and talk sessions” instead of traditional sit down meetings if possible.
  • Stand up for phone calls.
  • Pay attention to how much time you spend watching television and work on reducing that time.
  • Invest in a standing desk or desk top converter that adjusts when you absolutely must sit for a task.
  • Plan on activities to socialize with friends such as walking, bowling or playing golf.

It is easy to give in to current lifestyles and sit too much.  Re-think your day and see how you can add more “stand up time” to stay healthy.  Our bodies are not designed to sit all day so “think outside the chair” while at work or at home.