The Perils of Sitting
When asked what I did over the weekend my usual reply is that I studied. It is what I enjoy because I love this profession. When I learn something new that I can pass on, I am excited about it. Thirty years ago I really felt like I had a decent amount of knowledge. Ask me today what I know and my answer is drastically different. You see, the more I study and learn, the more I find out how much I don’t know. I don’t look at this as going backwards, but as moving forward – because once you think you know it all you quit learning. That being said, I have been studying the evidence on the perils of sitting. So today I want to share what I have learned.
Dr. James Levine, director of the Mayo Clinic-Arizona State University Obesity Solutions Initiative, states:
“Sitting is more dangerous than smoking, kills more people than HIV, and is more treacherous than parachuting. We are sitting ourselves to death.”
There is research stating that sitting for as little as two continuous hours increases the the risk of heart disease, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, cancer, back and neck pain and other orthopedic problems. Too much sitting can shorten your life. An Australian study conducted in 2008 reports that every hour of television watched after age 25 reduces the viewers life expectancy by 21.8 minutes By comparison, smoking a single cigarette reduces life expectancy by 11 minutes.
The typical seated office worker has more musculoskeletal injuries than construction workers, metal industry workers, and transportation workers. Sitting is as much an occupational risk as lifting heavyweight weights on the job. Sitting has been labeled a public health crisis. The World Health Organization ranks physical inactivity – sitting too much – as the fourth biggest preventable killer globally, causing an estimated 3.2 million deaths annually. Knowing this, does it make sense to go to the gym after sitting all day at a desk and then sit on machines and exercise? Not at all. Does that mean you can never use the machines. No, but use them in moderation. Standing exercises are a better choice.
When we sit for long periods, the muscles in our lower bodies literally turn off and become inactive. At the same time, we automatically adopt positions that don’t utilize the critical muscles and connective tissues that stabilize and support our trunk and spine. The result is compromised body function, which can cause a multitude of common orthopedic problems like back and neck dysfunction, carpal tunnel syndrome, and pelvic floor dysfunction. Our bodies adapt to the position that you assume for most of the day. So, if you sit and allow your back to round forward or arch backward, your tissues and joints will form sort of a cast around that posture, making it difficult to get in to better positions later. The positions we assume for most of the day impact the way we move the rest of the day.
A 2010 American Cancer Society study that followed 123,216 adults for 13 years showed that women who were inactive and sat for more than 6 hours a day were 94% more likely to to die during the period studied than those who were physically active and sat for less than three hours a day. Men who were inactive and sat for more than six hours a day were 48% more likely to die than there more active counterparts.
The problem can be summarized to three simple points.
1. We are not moving enough
2. We are not moving well
3. We are not performing basic maintenance on our bodies
There are some schools and workplaces that are adopting stand up work stations and desks. Dr. John Ratey, Harvard Medical School professor and author of Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, writes that the brain responds like muscles. “It grows with use and withers with inactivity. What’s even more disturbing and what virtually no one realizes is that inactivity is killing our brains – physically shriveling them”.
Next months article will deal with a plan to help combat this. Some of you may have desk jobs and have little control over your situation. For now, stand every thirty minutes and exercise on your feet. If you have any questions or concerns, or simply do not wish to wait, contact our office now so we can get you on a plan that will help combat the effects of sitting.
**Information for this article is taken from Deskbound: Standing Up To a Sitting World by Dr. Kelly Starrett with Juliet Starrett and Glen Cordoza.