Many of us spend most of the day being sedentary. Not necessarily sitting, but really not moving. Our inactive lifestyle can be truly destructive to our bodies. The human body was designed to be mobile. We sit in the car, we sit all day at work, we sit for hours watching tv, we sit while we socialize over coffee or dinner with friends. Sitting has been called the smoking of our generation. We’re averaging 9.3 hours a day of just sitting! We don't even question how much we're doing it.
The Huffington Post has quoted that after one hour of sitting, “the production of enzymes that burn fat declines by as much as ninety percent." Extended sitting slows the body’s metabolism affecting things like (good cholesterol) HDL levels in our bodies. Research shows that this lack of physical activity and immobility is directly tied to six percent of the impact for heart diseases, seven percent for type 2 diabetes, and 10 percent for breast cancer, or colon cancer. Not to mention–obesity.
Even if you exercise regularly with cardiovascular activity, strength or weight training, research has found that the sitting we typically do in a day still outweighs the benefit we get from exercise.
So really, the main problem is being in the same position for long periods of time throughout the day. There is no optimal position for the body—not even standing. Your body merely responds to the variety of positions and movements you put it through. The key to keeping your body awake, flexible, and responsive is variety. Variety is essential.
Let's start with posture. Sitting has become the culprit for society’s poor state of health, but if it’s inevitable we might as well try to do it a little bit better, right? Greatist.com has a few helpful pointers. First, line your gaze up with your computer or whatever it is you are working on. Looking down at your screen puts excess strain on your neck, which leaves you vulnerable to injuries such as cervical disc herniation, cervical strains, and headaches. Second, to avoid shoulder injuries and chronic upper back pain keep your arms at a comfortable 90-degree angle in a nice, neutral resting position. Third, to support and comfort your low back, make sure there is a small curve in your lumbar spine. This will keep you from being “hunchback” which leaves the lower back vulnerable to chronic lower back sprains and strains. Pillows and jackets are helpful ways to support your low back and improve posture. Lastly, keep your abs engaged. Your abs are your powerhouse! And they are the best means of protecting your low back from doing too much of the work.
In addition to improving your posture, there are many other ways to avoid the chronic sedentary lifestyle that so many of us lead. Some companies have now enlisted the help of standing desks which easily move up and down to fit your gaze whether you are standing or sitting. “Walking meetings” have become an excellent way to incorporate movement and work. This may not be an option for most but it’s still a pretty neat idea! Recently on the market is an under desk elliptical device called Cubii. It provides a low stress way to get a little movement and exercise during the day, right under your desk! You can also try sitting on a stability ball at your desk or at home. This keeps the body focusing on balancing and keeps your core engaged, making it stronger and helping your low back. Of course some simple solutions include getting up and walking around your office or during commercial breaks at home.
Let’s keep our bodies limber and our blood flowing! Get up and walk around!