Right now, how long have you been sitting down for? More than 30 minutes? Might be a good time to hop up and grab a drink or check the mail before you read on.
Depending on which paper you read Australians are sitting down for anywhere between 8 and 15 hours per day. This sedentary lifestyle is linked to health conditions such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease. Additionally, such periods of prolonged sitting causes your muscles to become shortened, tight and weak (see our blog: Have you got a dormant butt?). But be assured, there are things you can do to help your body survive the working day!
periods of prolonged sitting causes your muscles to become shortened, tight and weak
The stats on sitting
Some of my clients tell me they may spend 3 or 4 hours sitting at work without getting out of their chair. Does that sound familiar? According to research by The Heart Foundation, 1 in 6 of us sit for more than 11+ hours per day. This is despite the fact most people realise it’s unhealthy and would like to change their sitting habits.
You may be thinking this isn’t a concern for you because you already meet the minimum guidelines for physical activity (currently 30 minutes per day). Or you might feel that you don’t spend that much time sitting. Research shows that meeting the guidelines of physical activity is not enough to counteract the ill-effects of prolonged sitting. AND two-thirds of people underestimate the amount of time they spend sitting. Once you take into account the time spent each day sitting for meals, travel, watching television, not to mention time at work you may surprise yourself! Check out this calculator to get a better idea of your sitting time.
Your chair is quietly killing you
Recent studies have demonstrated that sedentary behaviour, such as prolonged sitting, leads to obesity and is a risk factor for osteoporosis, arthritis, depression and chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Additionally, sitting for extended periods can cause your muscles to atrophy (waste away), reduce the capacity of your lungs, impede your blood flow and alter your metabolism. In fact, the longer you sit uninterrupted, the greater your risk of early mortality.
You can literally reduce your chances of an early death by getting out of your chair more frequently!
Employers may be interested to hear the productivity of their workers can actually increase by having regular, short breaks. Among one cohort, 82% of employees reported feeling more lethargic after sitting for a long period while 65% actually reported being less productive.
Prolonged sitting is associated with:
- Heart disease
- Muscle loss
Give yourself a rest… from sitting!
If you think you might be sitting for a little too long, a little too often, the good news is there are some simple steps you can take to remedy the situation. The Heart Foundation offer some excellent ideas:
- Walk and talk whilst on the phone
- Stand up whilst reading your emails
- Use tv ad breaks as a reminder to get off the sofa
- Take care of chores whist watching tv (ironing, dusting, sweeping)
- Take a standing break every 30 minutes
- Use the stairs as often as possible
- Go to drink water more often
- Walk away from your desk when having lunch
- Walk to speak to colleagues rather than calling
- Make use of sit-stand desks or standing offices
- Walk to the park to study
- Try to walk or cycle at least part way to work
- Choose to stand on the bus or train
- Park your car further from your destination and walk the remainder
Making simple changes can have amazing benefits. A study in 2008 found that by simply taking more standing breaks, subjects reduced their waist size, BMI, blood sugar level and body fat percentage.
Sometimes we need a little nudge to remember to take breaks, so be sure to make use of the technology available. Apps such as MoveUp! and StandApp are excellent aides; whilst many FitBit and Apple watches have built-in reminder settings.
If you find yourself experiencing aches and pains which seem to get worse the longer you sit, don’t put up with it any longer. Start by incorporating a few of the suggestions mentioned above and make an appointment with Wisdom Physiotherapy – we can give you specific advice and treatment based on your individual situation.
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2010). Risk factors and participation in work. Canberra: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.
Chau, J.Y. et al. (2013). Daily sitting time and all-cause mortality: a meta-analysis Published: November 13, 2013 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0080000
Healy, G. N., Dunstan, D. W., Salmon, J., Cerin, E., Shaw, J. E., Zimmet, P. Z., & Owen, N. (2008). Breaks in sedentary time beneficial associations with metabolic risk. Diabetes care, 31(4), 661-666.
Hill JO, Wyatt HR, Reed GW, Peters JC (2003). Obesity and the environment: where do we go from here? Science. 2003 Feb 7; 299(5608):853-5.
Thorp AA, Owen N, Neuhaus M, Dunstan DW (2011) Sedentary behaviors and subsequent health outcomes in adults: A systematic review of longitudinal studies, 1996-2011. Am J Prev Med 41: 207-215. doi:10.1016/j.amepre.2011.05.004. PubMed: 21767729.
Wilmot E, Edwardson C, Achana F, Davies M, Gorely T, Gray L, Khunti K, Yates T and Biddle S (2012). Sedentary time in adults and the association with diabetes, cardiovascular disease and death: systematic review and meta-analysis. Diabetologia 55(11): 2895-2905.
van der Ploeg HP, Chey T, Korda RJ, Banks E, Bauman AE (2012) Sitting time and all-cause mortality risk in 222,497 Australian adults. Arch Intern Med 172: 494-500.doi:10.1001/archinternmed.2011.2174. PubMed: 22450936.