Sitting for long periods could be the biggest threat to your health. Long periods of sitting have been linked to poor health, weight gain, non-specific back and neck pain, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and dying prematurely. How can something as seemingly innocuous as sitting be so bad for you? Let’s discuss!

The dangers of prolonged, habitual sitting  


A post shared by EHPlabs (@ehplabs) onDec 7, 2017 at 4:38am PST

Sitting is a very passive activity. The chair supports almost all of your weight so your muscles don’t have to. That’s why you can sit for hours at a time. The trouble is, that passivity means your body quickly weakens and tightens up, so much so that many of us look like we are sitting, even when we are standing.

All this inactivity causes a marked metabolic slow-down, which increases blood glucose levels, leads to muscle atrophy, reduces insulin sensitivity, and can even effect circulation and lung function. In short, sitting can take years off your life.

In addition, sitting has a profound effect on your muscles and bones. The muscles on the front of your body tend to get short and tight, and the muscles on the back get stretched and weakened. This increases your risk of back pain, neck pain, headaches, shoulder pain, and knee pain. As it’s your chair that is supporting your weight, and not your bones, they can weaken and lose density, taking you one step closer toward osteoporosis, also known as brittle bone disease.  

It’s clear that too much sitting should be avoided, but how to you go about doing that, as well as reducing the damage caused by unavoidable prolonged sitting?

Here are some easy-to-implement tips for saving you from what many experts are now calling “sitting disease.”

1. Take regular breaks from sitting


A post shared by EHPlabs (@ehplabs) onDec 26, 2017 at 7:23pm PST

Because sitting is so passive, it’s very easy to do it for hours at a time without realising it. If you are working at a computer, those hours can quickly fly by and, before you know it, you’ve been sat at your desk for eight or more hours without taking a break.

Avoid this by setting an alarm to go off every hour to remind yourself to get up and move. Just a couple of minutes of movement per hour can reduce at least some of the impact of prolonged sitting.

2. Try a standing desk

Standing desks might seem a bit trendy or arty, but they are a good alternative to sitting for some people. Standing is a little more active, and your muscles are placed in an elongated rather than shortened position. Shifting your weight from foot to foot also helps keep your blood flowing and your muscles working.

You can rig up a standing desk very easily by putting your chair on your desk, and your laptop on your chair. Or, of course, you could try to convince your boss to buy you a real standing desk.

If you do use a standing desk, don’t throw away your chair straight away. Too much standing too soon could leave you with sore knees or back ache. Start off with an hour of standing work per day and increase gradually.

3. Go for a walk at lunchtime


A post shared by EHPlabs (@ehplabs) onDec 31, 2017 at 3:36am PST

Walking is arguably the best antidote for lots of sitting. It strengthens and stretches all the relevant muscles, and also increases blood flow, effectively undoing the stresses of sitting. Instead of sitting to eat your lunch, get out and go for a walk. Take your lunch with you. Just 30 minutes of walking can help alleviate much of the damage caused by a whole day of sitting. Walking before and then after work is also a good idea.

4. No more sitting exercises

If you work out, don’t make things worse by sitting down when you exercise. Bikes, seated strength training machines, seated stretches; it’s just more and more sitting! Instead, look for exercises you can do standing. Use a cross trainer or treadmill instead of a bike, replace leg extensions and leg curls with squats and lunges, do your pressing exercises standing instead of sitting on an exercise bench. Allow yourself 1-2 seated exercises per workout. The rest? Do them standing.

5. Address those sitting-related tightness’s and weaknesses


A post shared by EHPlabs (@ehplabs) onJan 9, 2018 at 3:52pm PST

Sitting has a profound effect on your body. Holding the same position for hours at a time can really do a number on your muscles.

Your calves, hamstrings, hip flexors, abs, and chest tend to get short and tight, whereas your glutes, lower back, and upper back tend to be stretched and weak. Make sure you address these changes in your workouts. If it’s short and tight, make sure you stretch it. If it’s stretched and weak, make sure you strengthen it.  

6. Seek out opportunities to sit less – no matter how brief


A post shared by EHPlabs (@ehplabs) onNov 30, 2017 at 4:31pm PST

Sitting is often unavoidable, but that doesn’t mean you can’t inject short bursts of activity into your day to undo some of its effect. Look for ways to sit less and move more – even if it’s just for a few minutes. Good examples include:

  • - Walk to see work colleagues instead of phoning or emailing them

  • - Have stand up meetings

  • - Take the stairs and not the elevator

  • - Park a little further away from your destination and walk the rest of the way  

  • - Stand up and pace when you answer the phone

  • - Walk any journey that’s shorter than one kilometre

Don’t underestimate how harmful sitting can be; just because you eat right and exercise three-times a week doesn’t mean that sitting the rest of the time won’t end up hurting you. Do all that you can to sit less and move more; your health will improve, you’ll lose weight more easily, and you’ll suffer fewer aches and pains if you do. Sit less, move more – make it your mantra!