If you’ve been reading the news recently you’ll have heard about ‘Stand Up For Your Health’. If you follow us on Facebook you’ll have seen the TED Ed video about the dangers of sitting appear on your newsfeed. If you’re not following us on Facebook check out our page so you don’t miss out on any more entertaining and educational videos, and then read this handy summary.
Our bodies are built for motion, not for stillness:
Sitting for a few minutes to recover from exercise is ok, but the longer you sit the more agitated your body is, it’s waiting for you to get up and move!
Our bodies aren’t built to sit more than they move. We have over 360 joints and muscles which give us the ability to stand, our blood circulation relies on movement and our skin is elastic to accommodate movement.
So what happens when we don’t move?
The spine is a long structure of bones and cartilage discs, held together by joints, muscles and ligaments.
Check your posture now – are you sitting with a curved back and slumped shoulders? Sitting like this puts uneven strain on the spine and, over time, causes wear and tear of the joints, muscles and ligaments as they stretch to accommodate your sitting posture
The curved shape also shrinks your chest cavity, meaning your lungs have less space to expand when you breathe. This limits the amount of oxygen entering your lungs and your bloodstream.
When you sit, you are literally squashing, pressuring and compressing the delicate tissues around and inside your muscles, like nerves, arteries and veins. Have you ever experienced numbness, pins and needles, or swelling whilst you sit? This will most likely have been because you were blocking these tissues!
Sitting also deactivates fat burning molecules in the blood, which increases stasis, or decreases the flow of the blood in the blood vessels.
These impact your brain…
Most of the time we sit down to use our brains, but being stationary reduces blood flow and reduces oxygen levels in the bloodstream. Your brain requires both of these to be alert so your concentration levels will drop as your brain activity slows
…and your life expectancy
The ill effects of sitting have long-term effects too. It is linked with some cancers, diabetes and kidney and liver problems.
Inactivity causes 9% of premature deaths a year, that’s over 5 million people
We have been telling our patients about the dangers of sitting for years, but something we nearly always hear back is ‘how am I supposed to move more if I have a desk-based job? I can’t just wander around the office all day, I’ll get fired!’
This is a very good point, so here are some tips to help you get up and about without risking the sack:
Take a walk every 30-45 minutes, or at least once an hour. Walk to the toilets, to the water machine, to the printer, to talk to the strange security man who always looks a little lonely. Set a timer, with your phone on vibrate, so you don’t lose track and forget. Spending 5 minutes upright is the ideal, but just getting up from your desk is a start.
Take a stroll at lunchtime. You get out of bed, you get on the tube, you get to the office, you eat at your desk, back on the tube and into your house. How long do you actually spend outside each day? Make a concerted effort to take a 20 minute stroll at lunch, you’ll get movement and vitamin D (vital for strong bones), bonus!
Experiment with a standing desk. If you work for yourself, or have a great HR department, then a standing desk could be your saviour. Don’t launch into an 8 hour standing day, work up to it 30 minutes at a time with breaks in between (because sitting for a rest is ok!). There are standing desks which can be converted into seated desk with the touch of a button, very nifty and worth checking out.
Get a sitting wedge. Not strictly getting you up and about but it will help your sitting posture by encouraging you to sit up straight, banishing curved backs and slouched shoulders.