If you’re reading this, you’re probably doing so while seated in your couch, or at your workspace. Whether you are driving to the grocery store, having dinner with your family, or watching your favourite television show, there is a common factor: the act of sitting.
This phenomenon has been dubbed as “Sitting Disease,” which is generally characterized as a disorder associated with adverse health effects of increased sedentary activity.
Two factors may describe sedentary behavior: the place you are in, which is usually reclining or sitting, and the amount of energy expenditure experienced by your body.
You may be asking yourself, “But I workout every day, does this still apply to me?”
What is Sitting Disease?
First, what do we mean when we refer to sitting disease? The “sitting disease,” or a sedentary lifestyle, is a term used to describe individuals whom engage in prolonged periods of sitting or overall inactivity. Although it may seem harmless to sit down all day, you may be shocked by the negative effect it has on your health.
Too much sitting overall and prolonged periods of sitting also seem to increase the risk of death from cardiovascular disease and cancer.
Sitting disease is found to be associated with negative effects, such as increased blood pressure, elevated risk of type 2 diabetes, excess body fat around the waist and abnormal cholesterol levels.
An average office worker sits for eight hours a day, with some pulling in longer hours depending on job demands and the industry they work in.
The advancement of technology has made it even more convenient for us to accomplish many things without leaving our desks. From call-in meetings to brainstorming sessions, a lot can be done without ever leaving our desk but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be cognizant of what our bodies are doing while we are using technology.
As put by Dr. Elliot O’Connor, DPT, from UW Sports Medicine, it is common to experience the development of a hump at the top of your back, the shortening of your hip flexors, shortened abdominal muscles, a caving chest, weakening shoulders, arm pain, numbness and tingling in your limbs, and worst of all, traumatic pressure on the discs in your back from staring at your computer with poor posture.
Even when using a smartphone, proper posture needs to be preserved because a human head weighs about 10-12 lbs. Studies show that bending your head down to the standard texting position of 60 degrees will weigh around 60 lbs on your head.
Every year, we spend between 700-1,400 hours on our smartphones, so putting that much tension on our necks and spines will begin to cause issues just by bending our heads for so long.
How Sitting Disease can affect your mental health
Not only does being sedentary take a physical toll on our bodies, it also affects our mental health. For starters, it can make it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep at night if you don’t get enough physical exercise during the day.
You may be more likely to experience psychological distress from a sedentary lifestyle. For example, a study of more than 3,300 government workers in Australia found that men who sat at work for more than six hours a day were 90 percent more likely than men who sat for less than three hours a day to experience mild psychological distress such as hopelessness, nervousness, and restlessness.
How to avoid Sitting Disease?
You may make several lifestyle changes to either avoid or fight sitting disease and the impacts of a sedentary life. We know it’s impossible to get rid of technology completely and we’re not suggesting to leave your job at the office. Instead, we emphasize the importance of awareness in terms of your posture, body expression, and the amount of sitting/reclining every day.
However, more research is needed on the effects of sitting and physical activity on health. It seems clear that less sitting and more overall activity lead to better health. When you have the chance or find ways to walk while you work, you could start by just standing rather than sitting. For instance:
Try to stand more in the day if you do nothing else. A good way to break up your workday is to stand up more often and it can have more impact than you would expect.
Low-intensity movements such as standing and walking are more necessary than we assume, and even a low level of exercise that is consistent during the day can be metabolically more effective even than our high-intensity workouts.
A good place to start is alternating between sitting and standing every thirty minutes.
Get More Active At Home
There are things you can do at home and at work, along with standing more, that can help you be more involved and reduce the risk of developing sitting disease.
Try to aim to improve both indoors and outside the pace at which you do your housework. Many individuals do not understand how much housework and tasks will help them fit into their day. Try to concentrate each day on multiple things you want to achieve, and do them at a quick pace.
Get More Active at Work
Your workplace is probably where you spend a large chunk of your life, and it may also be where you’re almost entirely sedentary. Consider integrating the following tips into your workday:
- Stand up every thirty minutes, and try to walk around your office at least once every hour.
- Stand when you talk on the phone.
- Use your break to take a walk, even if it’s only a few minutes.
Other Ways to Break Your Sedentary Lifestyle
There are other general things you can incorporate into your life to reduce the sedentary lifestyle including:
- Wear an activity tracker—this forces you to be conscious of how much you are or aren’t moving in a day. Set goals for your steps and the number of calories you’d like to burn each day. Read this article here for a health monitoring app.
- Regularly play music in your house because music gives you energy and encourages you to move.
- Cook your own meals. This is not only good from a nutritional point of view, but you are active when you cook.
Being sedentary has become an inevitable byproduct of the comfort that technology and a modern lifestyle offer us but it doesn’t have to be your reality.
Be mindful of the amount of physical exercise you get every day and find innovative yet attainable ways to shift your body more every day, whether you are at home or at work.