Do you sit at a desk at work? Drive a lot? Sit on the couch in the evening? If you’ve ever wondered if you are sitting too much, or how sitting affects your body, this information will be valuable to you.
Aside from sitting correctly, from an ergonomic standpoint, remember that the body is always working, moving and adjusting to each different position and movement, and there are consequences to those movements (or lack of movements). The guy in the picture above will surely be experiencing some of the consequences of sitting if he keeps on like that!
Here’s what happens when you sit:
As soon as you set your bottom down, the electrical activity in the legs shuts off since your weight is off your legs. Calorie burning drops to about 1 calorie per minute. To put this in perspective, casual or moderate activity burns 4-7 calories per minute, and more strenuous activity can burn 7-13 calories per minute. Add up the minutes in the day and that’s a LOT of calorie burning you are missing out on when you sit. In addition, the enzymes that break down fat drop by 90%!
Your “good” cholesterol (HDL) drops by 20% after two hours of sitting. Since HDL keeps busy by eradicating the “bad” cholesterol (LDL), if it’s effectiveness drops by 20% it’s not going to be protecting your body from heart attack to that extent.
Long term effects of need to be considered as well. Long periods of sitting, and over time, puts much more stress on the spine, specifically the neck and lower back. Since the body is in a fairly fixed position when seated, blood flow is reduced because of squeezed blood vessels in the torso, neck and shoulders. Fatigue results. In the lower body, you are potentially looking at chronic numbness and varicose veins.
The good news – there is something that you can do. Get up frequently, stretch out your limbs and body, take the stairs when you can. Set your chair back to a 135-degree angle. Leaning back a little more will alleviate the gravity and pressure that sitting more upright puts on your spine.
At work, back pain is one of the most common reasons of lost productivity. Joint pain occurs in 30% of those that sit most of the day for work and the of getting colon cancer is increased. What can you do about it?
Throwing out your chair and desk and replacing them with a standing desk is not the answer, because you feel muscular strain in the neck and back if you stand for long periods, compressing the joints. Find a happy medium.
1. Alternate sitting and standing
2. Exercise regularly
3. Check your posture every 20-30 minutes to make sure you are aligned properly
4. Take breaks and take the stairs whenever you can
5. Stretch regularly
Standing for 2 minutes 16 times has proven to be more beneficial for your body than exercising for 32 minutes straight – that’s amazing!
After work, in the evening, take a walk instead of sitting in front of the TV. It’s been documented that those who sit in front of the TV for more than three hours per day are 64% more likely to die from heart disease.
There are ways to combat the effects of sitting for long periods that have nothing to do with taking medicine, seeing a doctor or quitting your job. I hope this information has helped you. If it has, please pass it on to someone else that might benefit.
Dr. Dana Ballerini
1442 Irvine Blvd, Suite 101
Tustin, CA 92780
Sources: Medical Billing and Coding; Occupational and Environmental Medicine; The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition; Businessweek; The New York Times; Science Daily; ehow.com; Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety.