Is Sitting the New Smoking?
Whether you are having dinner, studying, driving, typing or watching TV in your living room, all these activities have one thing in common; they involve sitting. So, it’s quite illogic to think that you can avoid sitting in totality. However, Dr. Elliot O’Connor of UW Sports Medicine warns that there are so many risks associated with prolonged sitting, a condition called Sitting Disease. In fact, Dr. O’Connor calls sitting the new smoking. But why?
According to the doctor, sitting doesn’t kill you right away but does it over time. This is the same thing with tobacco smoking. His sentiments are seconded by the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. According to the journal, sitting just like smoking exposes you to the risks of cardiovascular diseases and cancer. In addition, there are other risks such as diabetes, obesity, and disability.
Another study by Annals of Internal Medicine shows that Sitting Disease leads to early death among adults. This is with respect to those who spend 6 hours or more sitting on a daily basis. However, the study shows that more inactive women (at 94%) are affected than inactive men (at 48%). You may argue, “But I work out?” Unfortunately, you are not off the hook. According to Dr. O’Connor, even a person who works out but later lives a sedentary life is at risk of suffering Sitting Disease.
Dr. Brian Liem, also from UW Sports Medicine, insists on including standing in everything that you do that involves sitting more than an hour as the best way to prevent Sitting Disease. The doctor argues that it helps to strengthen the postural muscles and this eventually leads to a better posture. The doctor concludes that standing is equally as important as sitting and thus the two should be alternated.
What Sitting Does to Your Body
A new British Campaign dabbed “Get Britain Standing” calls prolonged sitting ill-health. This is because over £1 billion is used yearly to combat complications resulting from Sitting Disease. According to Gavin Bradley, the man behind the Get Britain Standing initiative, prolonged sitting is bad for us but we never realize it until a complication arises. This is the case of smoking. Mr. Bradley argues that one thing happens when you sit for long – your metabolism slows down and this affects processes like fat breakdown and glucose regulation.
In the end, this improves the risk of becoming obese and suffering serious conditions like heart attack, hypertension, diabetes, and obesity. A finding by Mayo Clinic concludes that you conserve about 352 calories in every two hours of sitting and this is a leading cause of obesity. Doctors generally recommend physical activities as a way to improve metabolism and this includes standing and walking more as opposed to sitting.
Additionally, a sedentary lifestyle affects you in the following ways:
- It weakens and wastes your gluteal and leg muscles.
- Shortens your hip flexors, leading to hip problems.
- Interferes with your overall body posture
Technology and Sitting
In this age, it’s hard to do some things without resorting to technology. The problem is that most devices require you to take a sit. Without realizing it, you find yourself spending hours sitting at the same place without even making a move. It’s likely that you own a smartphone, a TV or a computer at home. Think of how many hours you sit down staring at the screen. If you work in an office, then you probably spend three-quarter of your office hours behind the desk.
Even though technology is an important part of our lives, it doesn’t mean that you should give in to the demands of a sedentary life. For starters, staring at your PC contributes to the shortening of the hip flexors and abdominal muscles. It also makes your chest to curve and the shoulders to weaken. This may manifest itself in form of a hump on your upper back. Even though these symptoms are quite uncommon, Dr. O’Connor argues that they are a real possibility.
Aging and Sitting
According to a REGARDS study, the older you get, the more you sit. in the long run, this increases the risk of suffering from conditions like stroke and heart attack which are known to cause early deaths. The mental functions are also affected as you become more sedentary. Studies show that an older person sits at least 9 hours a day. This is a risk by itself since it provides the body with little time to stretch.
What’s the Solution?
You probably are wondering what to do after learning the dangers of Sitting Disease. Considering that it’s almost impossible to use a computer or a phone without taking a seat, the solution is to inculcate standing in between the sitting. For example, you should stand after every 30 minutes of sitting. This will ensure that your back and hip muscles are stretched enough and you enjoy a better posture. Actually, the American Heart Association recommends sitting less and moving more as a way to overcome heart conditions related to Sitting Disease. Other things that you can do include:
- Stretch where you are – You can do it under the desk, when you halt your car, and on your sofa while watching TV. This is meant to readjust your muscles and to help you gain a better posture.
- Stand when having your lunch – If the lunch break is the only time that you can stand for a reasonable amount of time when at work, you should take advantage of it and eat while standing. It doesn’t make sense to sit again after coming from the office.
- Do the one-leg balance when brushing your teeth or when watching TV – This encourages proper blood supply and combats back muscle stiffness.
- Performing aerobic exercises – There are simple aerobic routines such as leg raising and arm stretching routines that you can do regularly to stretch your body. The WHO recommends doing moderate aerobic routines for at least 2.5 hours every week.
- Take the stairs if possible, instead of the elevator, to encourage stretching.
- Park a distance away to encourage more walking.
- Find a fun activity to do like swimming, dancing, and yoga.