Have you ever counted the number of hours you sit in a day? You would be surprised to know that on an average, an adult spends 9.7 hours/ day sitting and the number can go up to 15 for office workers.
This trend of sedentary lifestyle in the digital age has become a global threat and may add to an already increased burden of non-communicable disease.
Sitting in Office all Day!
Research that Backs Up this Problem
Research has now suggested that sitting for too long is bad for your health, regardless of how much exercise you do.
In 2010, the American Cancer Society released a report in the American Journal of Epidemiology stating that men who sat for six hours or more a day in their leisure time had an overall death rate that was nearly 20 percent higher than men who sat for three hours or less in the 14-year follow-up period. Women who sat for more than six hours a day had a death rate that was almost 40 percent higher. Similar results were published in Archives of Internal Medicine stating that people who sit for long periods are at a higher risk of dying early.
What are the Harmful Effects of Sitting?
On sitting for a long duration, our leg muscles become slack and don’t contract effectively to pump blood to the heart. This leads to pooling of blood in the legs and reduced ability of the blood vessels to expand. Problems range from swollen ankles and varicose veins to dangerous blood clots called deep vein thrombosis (DVT).
This sluggish blood flow also leads to deposition of fats in blood vessels. The fat clogs up the blood vessels, which further limits the oxygen and nutrient supply to the brain slowing the brain function.
Chronic sitters don’t use their hip muscles as much as they should, which is a reason for decreased hip stability. This is the main reason why they are unable to balance themselves. This results in them falling more often than others do.
If most of your sitting occurs at a desk at work, craning your neck forward toward a keyboard or tilting your head to cradle a phone while typing can strain the cervical vertebrae and lead to permanent imbalances giving rise to variety of conditions ranging from muscular pain to spondylosis.
It is a well-known fact that prolonged sitting leads to permanent postural defects and spinal injuries.
Upper-body weight rests entirely on the sitting bones instead of being distributed along the spine leading to pain in the tailbone region.
Lack of inactivity is one of the reasons for increasing incidence of osteoporosis.
Contrary to the effects of prolonged sitting, standing causes cellular changes that improve muscular and metabolic functions of the body.
When we move around, soft discs between vertebrae expand and contract like sponges, soaking up fresh blood and nutrients. But when we sit for a long time, discs are squashed unevenly leading to spinal problems.
People who sit more are at a greater risk for herniated lumbar disks.
Prolonged sitting (even as little as 30 minutes) disrupts the metabolic functions and slows it down by 90 percent. Furthermore, it raises the levels of plasma triglycerides, cholesterol, and blood sugar. After two hours of sitting, the level of good cholesterol drops by 20 percent. This has been linked to high blood pressure. It substantially increases factors that lead to cancer especially colon cancer, endometrial cancer, and breast cancer.
Researches have suggested that sitting for long hour’s impacts mental wellbeing of workers increasing the incidence of reduced social skills, anxiety, and depression.
How can I Reduce My Sitting Time?
If you’ve been sitting for an hour, you’ve been sitting for too long. We should all be up at least 10 minutes out of every hour.
People who don’t exercise can be healthier, even if all they do is reduce the amount of time they sit. In fact, if someone goes to the gym or walks for 30 to 45 minutes a day, but sits down the rest of the time, then they are still described as having a ‘sedentary lifestyle’.
Recent research even showed that it takes just three hours of sitting to cause damage to blood vessels. However, when the sitting time was interrupted by a gentle 10-minute cycling session, no decline in vascular function was recorded.
- Take the stairs instead of using the lift.
- Make sure you get up and walk around after every 30 minutes of sitting
- Walk 7,000 to 10,000 steps a day
- Swap some TV time for more active tasks or hobbies
- Avoiding sitting whenever possible
- Have alternate breaks of sitting and standing at work
- Break up periods of sitting or standing by doing simple exercises at your desk.
- To work standing, raise the level of laptop by placing it over a stand, box, or books.
- Stand or walk around while on the phone.
- Take a walk every time you take a coffee or tea break.
- Have standing meetings.
- Do not drive continuously for more than 50 minutes. Take a short break of 2-3 minutes in between.
- Consider using a standing work station intermittently.
Special Advice for Parents
As children are spending, lesser time in physical activities and more time watching TV or playing video games. Parents must establish healthy habits during the early years in order to protect them from future health imbalances.
- Lead by example by reducing their TV time and other sitting-based tasks.
- Keep a limit on TV/ screen time
- Make bedrooms a TV and computer-free zone
- Encourage participation in house chores and outdoor games
- Choose gifts that encourage physical activities
- Reduce time spent in infant carriers, car seats, or highchair