We’ve known for decades that prolonged inactivity can contribute to back pain and obesity. Evidence tells us that regular exercise is vital to our well-being. Adhering to an exercise regimen can improve cardiovascular health, lower blood pressure and improve metabolism and levels of cholesterol and triglycerides. Physical activity also helps reduce risk of diabetes and the risk of cancer. There are lots of benefits to exercise, but can it counteract the negative effects of sitting for too long? The relationship between sitting and illness has spawned an area of study called inactivity research. Steven Blair, a professor of public health at the University of South Carolina, has spent 40 years investigating inactivity’s effect on overall health. In 2011, Blair headed a study that examined the relationship between the amount of time spent sitting and the risk of dying from heart disease in adult men. He discovered that those who reported more than 23 hours a week of sedentary activity had a 64% greater risk of dying from heart disease than those who reported less than 11 hours a week of sedentary activity. And the interesting twist here is that those men who sat for more than 23 hours a week also exercised regularly. This can only mean that the assumption that prolonged sitting is only a problem for inactive people is misleading.
Sitting is a low energy activity. When you sit, the big muscles in areas like your legs and back are not contracting. These major muscles aren’t moving, therefore, metabolism slows down (weight gain will ensue). It makes our bodies think that we are in energy storage mode. As a result, our bodies become resistant to insulin which increases the level of glucose in the blood and reduces the level of good cholesterol. These changes add to the risk of obesity, diabetes and heart disease.
Many of us have desk jobs and we can’t control how much we sit. But we can control what we do after work. Instead of camping out in front of the TV, spend some time outside. Take a stroll after dinner (moving will help you digest). Plan physical activities to do with your family and friends. Don’t be a couch potato on the weekends! There are also actions you can take to move around more during the work week. Switch to a higher desk that allows you to stand up when you’re on the computer. Drink lots of water while you’re working so that you have to get up to use the restroom frequently. Set a timer for every 15-20 minutes to remind you to stand up.
Eager to learn more about beating bad posture? Dr. Ben Rubin and Dr. Tim Brown, two legends in the field, are here to share their insight on posture, injuries, and athletic performance.