Sitting is wonderful, however, sitting for too long is considered worse than smoking. Sitting for too long could be considered a disease. Today’s society is about technology. However, this technology involves a great deal of inactivity and sitting for a long time. This behavior has been linked to chronic disease and on a variety of health issues not to mention the havoc, it inflicts on your spine.
Unfortunately, many work environments encourage their employees to sit for hours and hours without any kind of movement except for using the bathroom. Something has to change because as someone said, “if you don’t take the time to focus on yourself and your health, you will be forced to take the time to focus on your illness.”
The Sedentary Work Lifestyle
Being in front of a computer all day may be part of the job, however, the goal is to bring in more activity into the day. This can be accomplished by maintaining proper posture through exercise, stretching and if need be to invest in a sit-stand desk.
Understanding why you should avoid long bouts of time sitting, means you need to know the research about what the medical community is dubbing the sitting disease.
Health Hazards of Sitting Too Long
Up to 80% of people sit for six or more hours every day, according to a study from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys. Whether at work, plopped down in front of the TV, or the daily commute doesn’t matter, the point is that people are spending long hours sitting down and the impact of inactivity is not good.
Individuals that sit for prolonged periods have a greater risk of dying from all causes. This is because a sedentary lifestyle has been shown to increase the risk for:
- Cardiovascular disease
- Cancers (breast, colon, colorectal, endometrial, and epithelial ovarian)
- Type 2 diabetes in adults
These results came from 47 studies that focused on the health effects of being sedentary. These included the types of activity people engage in, from leisure activities to strong physical activity. Those who did not exercise had the greatest risk of health problems with being sedentary. Adding only two minutes of light exercise for every hour spent sitting lowers the risk of presenting health issues/conditions by one-third, according to the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology study.
The Way Sitting Hurts the Back and Neck
Spending the majority of the day every day in a seated position will eventually take its toll leaving your spine sore, stiff, and in pain. Too much sitting puts stress on the muscles and discs of the back and neck.
What happens from all the sitting is tightness in the hip flexors like the iliopsoas muscle forms, along with pressure and restricted blood flow in the muscles of the gluteus maximus. This muscle supports a good amount of the weight placed on the spine.
The longer individuals continue to repeat unhealthy sitting behavior, the higher the risk their posture begins to fall into slouching, into incorrect posture and possibly into spinal conditions and diseases. Slouching over time causes the ligaments to stretch beyond their healthy limit, combined with poor posture strains the spinal discs that can lead to herniation, bulging and complete loss of the intervertebral discs.
This results in added strain to the outer annulus of the disc and increases disc bulging and disc pressure.
When sitting, it’s usually at a computer/working on tasks at a desk that results in the head being in a constant forward position, with rounded shoulders that results in what is known as poor posture syndrome. Staying in the office chair or any chair too long leads to an isolated episode of back or neck pain/soreness. What’s happening is that the normal wear and tear of the spinal discs is sped up from the unhealthy weight and pressure being placed on the spine. This results in back pain that becomes a regular daily thing instead of an occasional problem.
Ergonomic chairs, sit-stand desks, fitness/stability balls and utilizing proper posture/exercises are tools to help mitigate the damage of sitting all day.
This includes stretching the muscles like the:
- Scalene muscles in the neck
- Hip flexors
Strengthening the muscles that are not used is very important. Muscles like the abdominals, glutes, back extensors and scapular muscles will bring back the spine’s normal balance, improving posture and getting relief from pain. Varying posture is another great way to exercise different muscles and ligaments by occasionally standing and moving around for a few minutes every half-hour. This keeps joints, muscles, tendons, and ligaments loose and pain-free.
We’ve all been there working, typing feeling the positive flow and then you see two hours have passed and you haven’t gotten up from your chair at all.
Experts recommend activity every 20-30 minutes, with 20 minutes of standing per hour. Desk technology has arrived and wants to keep employees healthy. Sit-stand desks are proving to be highly beneficial to companies throughout the country. These desks allow you to transition from sitting to standing while your desk stays the same.
Standing at work has shown to boost productivity all the while allowing you to readjust posture, lose weight by burning 30% more calories and keeps your spine healthy.
Even without a sit-stand desk, there are still ways of combating sitting disease and protecting your spine. Consider:
- Doing some work standing up at a high table or counter.
- Walk laps during discussions so you and your co-workers get some movement.
- Take stand-and-stretch breaks every 30 minutes, set a timer if you have to.
- Walk to a coworkers office to tell them in person instead of emailing/texting.
- Park your car a little bit further from the office to work your steps.
- After lunch walk around or do some stand-up work as this will help with digestion.
This will reduce your sitting throughout the day. Remember that changing posture is good for your back and neck, but don’t take it to the other extreme and stop sitting. It’s all about mixing it up. Sitting, standing, and moving around throughout the day is the best way to keep your spine/body-safe, and in optimal health at work and home.
Lower Back Pain after sitting? | El Paso, Tx (2020)
This may sound melodramatic, but it’s true. As we talked about above, sitting for prolonged periods of time puts you at greater risk of diseases that may end up killing you. A study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, “found people who sat for over 11 hours a day had a 40% greater risk of dying within three years from any cause than people who sat less than 4 hours a day.”