Sitting really is the new smoking

We have all heard it before, don’t slouch! Yet, we all do it as soon as we sit down, and get distracted by a screen. We spend a lot of time sitting, definitely more than our ancestors, who were on their feet all day to find or produce food. With more and more advances in technology, we don’t have to do a lot of physical work, and rather work in offices or from home on our computers.

So what happens when we sit?

Our bodies are capable to assume a seated position, but it doesn’t mean, it’s good for us for prolonged periods of time. Sitting for more than eight hours per day (count all sitting, such as sitting down for meals, sitting in the car or public transport, at work and at home) has a higher mortality rate than sitting for less than four hours per day an Australian study with over 200,000 adults has shown. Muscles get short, weak and tense, and then they create discomfort and eventually pain in our bodies.

The list is long, low back pain, shoulder and neck pain as well as headaches are very common complaints. Our inner organs, such as the lungs and digestive organs get compressed and reduced in their functionality. Unfortunately, these changes in the body can remain, if nothing is done about them for decades. Hence, when you see an old person walking with difficulty, because they are hunched over and almost look as they still had the chair attached to them, it is mostly due to the habit of sitting.

As if this wasn’t bad enough, our posture influences our mood, emotions and mind as well, research has shown. Someone who is constantly hunched over or slouches, is more likely to feel negative than a person with an upright posture. Self-confidence is also lower for people who slouch or look down constantly.

If you think ‘but I go to the gym or I run in the morning, this should make up for the sitting’, there’s more bad news. Physical exercise does not make much difference, if you still sit for most of the day. Every hour you sit takes away from your workout. By lunch time, there’s not much benefit left from your morning run.

Watch This Short Video (Science Alert) on what damage sitting does to your body (you may want stand up for this one).

So, what can you do?

Keep the regular gym sessions and morning runs up. In addition, you really have to schedule breaks into your sitting routine and reduce the hours of sitting overall during the day. Try to have standing meetings, get up every time the phone rings, stretch every 20 minutes and so on. Things like that can help your body to get out of the sitting habit. The key is to keep moving. Frequently change the posture you are in, do not just stand in one position for hours either. Mix it up.

If you think you can’t change, think again. One of my massage therapy teachers has banned all seating furniture in his house. For the last few years he has only been sitting on the floor. Mind you, he is in his 70s. So, it is possible to change, even at a more advanced age. It might take you longer to break the habit and to get normal functionality and mobility back into your body, because you have had the habit for longer than a 20-year-old. Be patient and kind, but persistent.

Want to find out more? Check out my Tips and Tricks section:

Do you often work on a laptop or tablet?

7 Tips to Help Reduce the Impacts of Sitting All Day

References

Atkin, A. J., Ph, D., Adams, E., Bull, F. C., Ph, D., Biddle, S. J. H., & Ph, D. (2012). Non-Occupational Sitting and Mental Well-Being in Employed Adults, 181–188. doi:10.1007/s12160-011-9320-y

Biswas, A., Oh, P. I., Faulkner, G. E., Bajaj, R. R., Silver, M. A., Mitchell, M. S., & Alter, D. A. (2015). Sedentary time and its association with risk for disease incidence, mortality, and hospitalization in adults a systematic review and meta-analysis. Annals of Internal Medicine, 162(2), 123–132. doi:10.7326/M14-1651

Chau, J. Y., Van Der Ploeg, H. P., van Uffelen, J. G. Z., Wong, J., Riphagen, I., Healy, G. N., … Brown, W. J. (2010). Are workplace interventions to reduce sitting effective? A systematic review. Preventive Medicine, 51(5), 352–356. doi:10.1016/j.ypmed.2010.08.012

Lynch B. M., Owen N. (2015). Too Much Sitting and Chronic Disease Risk: Steps to Move the Science Forward. Ann Intern Med.,162,146-147. doi:10.7326/M14-2552

Nair, S., Sagar, M., Sollers, J., Consedine, N., & Broadbent, E. (2015). Do Slumped and Upright Postures Affect Stress Responses? A Randomized Trial. Health Psychology 34(6), 632–641.

Ryan, C. G., Dall, P. M., Granat, M. H., & Grant, P. M. (2011). Sitting patterns at work: objective measurement of adherence to current recommendations. Ergonomics, 54(6), 531–538. doi:10.1080/00140139.2011.570458

Van der Ploeg H. P., Chey T., Korda R. J., Banks E., Bauman A. (2012). Sitting Time and All-Cause Mortality Risk in 222497 Australian Adults. Arch Intern Med. 2012;172(6):494-500. doi:10.1001/archinternmed.2011.2174

Warren, T. Y., Barry, V., Hooker, S. P., Sui, X., Church, T. S., & Blair, S. N. (2010). Sedentary behaviors increase risk of cardiovascular disease mortality in men. Med Sci Sports Exerc, 42(5), 879–885. doi:10.1249/MSS.0b013e3181c3aa7e.Sedentary