sitting too much

Sitting Too Much: A National Epidemic

Why should you have to stand when it is so easy to sit? How unhealthy is it to sit all day? How often should a person be sitting? Would it be helpful to get a standing desk at work?

These are all questions that I got on a daily basis and it shows that not only is this becoming a problem but it’s trending towards an epidemic. Sadly, as we age people feel even more of a need to sit. Recent studies have shown that increased sitting times lead to a variety of poor health factors. The majority of Americans sit on average up to 11 hours per day. Most people believe that to be a bit of an exaggeration but when you combine 8 to 9 hours of work with sitting at home watching television and sitting in the car it adds up rather easily.

So, why do we always feel the need to sit?

People always think that they should be sitting because they lack the proper support from muscle groups in order to stand for prolonged periods of time. Therefore, it is much more comfortable to sit but this will eventually lead to leaning on one side as opposed to the other and slouching. When this occurs over and over again the compensation will cause tightness, soreness and even pain in the neck or lower back.

If this occurs then it is best to seek the expertise of a chiropractor who can assess your imbalances and correct them in order for the spine to have proper alignment. This will allow the body to heel into the best position possible and when combined with proper posture exercises it is the perfect combination for better health.

How unhealthy is it to sit all day?

There are more recent studies that reveal prolonged sitting to lead to increased risks for diabetes, obesity, stroke, poor bone health and even early death. Lack of proper movement through the day can have an effect on metabolism which leads to increased adipose tissue and weight gain. The correlation to stroke and prolonged sitting is due to the excess weight gain that leads to higher blood pressure. The increase in blood pressure is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease and stroke.

Not only do the benefits of standing as opposed to standing help your health but it will obviously increase your life expectancy as well. An Australian study from 2012 showed that by merely reducing a person’s sitting time by 3 hours that this can cause life expectancy to lengthen by 2 years. So, when the phrase “sitting is the new smoking” was made in recent years the health professionals were not lying when you see the associated health factors linked to excessive sitting.

How often should you be sitting?

Ideally, we ask our patients to try to stand and move around for every 30 minutes that a sedentary positioning takes place. Most of our patients can find that difficult to accomplish given that they sit in meetings and planes at times to where they cannot stand. The best thing to do is to try and make up the difference by standing more when given the opportunity. The body burns almost 50 calories more when standing per hour.

If this is done 4 hours per day and 5 days per a given work week then that is an extra 1000 calories burned. In a year that adds up to over 50,000 calories which equates to just over 14 pounds of fat. So, why not force yourself to stand more if you know it is only going to better your chances of improved health?

What it be helpful to get a standing desk at work?

There are a lot of varying opinions to this but the belief is that whatever keep you from sitting is a positive. This does not mean that everyone should be standing at work all day either. There has to be a general progression to standing at work because it can be quite uncomfortable in the beginning since the body has not been trained to do this new habit. Aches and pains can begin to occur in the heels, feet, ankles, knees, hips and lower back. Over time without proper posture it will reach the middle back and neck areas.

Also, as a society this is just how we operate. We all have to sit for meetings or in planes and in our cars to get to and from work. But the more we can combat the amount of sitting that we do then the better that we will feel. This all starts with our desk and chairs which are usually the problem. There are some companies who provide their workers with sit/stand desks but that is not always the case.

In the event that this is not possible for some people then the recommendation is to purchase a Varidesk or a riser type device for the desktop computer to be raised to a comfortable level. A wireless keyboard and mouse would also be helpful to promote better posture.

About the Author Dr. Brandon Siegmund

Dr. Brandon Siegmund was born and raised outside of Fort Worth. After he obtained his Bachelor’s degree in Biology from the University of Texas at Austin in 2006, Dr. Siegmund performed clinical research at MD Anderson Cancer Center. Click Here To Read Full Bio

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