Most of us at this point are aware on some cognitive level of the dangers of too much sitting. Reports of the adverse health effects and statistics about shortened life spans have been hitting the media lately.
A recent Australian study followed approximately 200,000 adults 45 years and older, and found that those who sat more than 11 hours/day were 40% more likely to die than those who sat less than 4 hours/day. Exercising didn’t help the 11-hour seat-huggers unfortunately.
In response to this ergonomic error, I’ve been hearing stories of patients creating standing desks at work. For those who are chained to a chair, glued to a computer, or shackled to a desk, this is a good option to start with.
At home, it can be a little tougher to get out of the recliner or comfy couch, especially once we settle in for the night watching our favorite shows, reading a chapter or two, or surfing the web on our tablets, sometimes all three at the same time!
And it may not be enough to just stand up. As evolutionary luck would have it, we are built for MOVEMENT.
Our beginnings are fraught with running from the saber-toothed tiger, hunting what we could catch, and gathering edible plants for survival. NOT sitting to furiously type on a small keyboard attached to an artificially lit screen, or watching the weather report on the 10 o’clock news.
And evolution has really has gone through A LOT of trouble to make us efficient two-legged movers. In fact, of the 4000 species of mammals currently in existence, we are the ONLY ONE who is upright when walking. And, one of if not THE most efficient long-distance traveler by foot.
The World Health Organization recommends at least 150 minutes per week, of exercise, which breaks down to 21 minutes per day. Pick your favorite ½-hour TV show; it’s about that long if you cut out the commercials.
So, what to do? STAND UP, then MOVE! Here are a couple quick tips to get you started:
- Create a standing desk and take breaks from it every 30 minutes
- Go tell a coworker instead of sending an email
- Take the stairs
- Park farther away
- Wear a pedometer and get to 10,000 steps
- On commercial breaks, do one of the following: 10 pushups, 10 squats, climb stairs, 1 minute plank
- Plant a garden
- Get a dog and walk it
Need a little more convincing? Did you know that motion helps block pain?
The sensory information of touch, vibration and pressure travel to your brain faster than pain signals do. They win the race, and the brain doesn’t pay much attention to 2nd place.
So, by inputting those movement signals, pain gets less play time in the brain translating into less “ouch”. What do you do when you bump your elbow? That’s right, rub it (touch, vibration and pressure) to make it feel better.
Commit to movement, and stop the slide into sedentarianism! Your body and the gene pool at large will thank you.
Chakravarty E, Hubert H, Lingala V, et al. Long distance running and knee osteoarthritis: a prospective study. Am J Prev Med. 2008;35:133-138
Hidde P. van der Ploeg, PhD; Tien Chey, MAppStats; Rosemary J. Korda PhD, et al. Sitting time and all-cause mortality risk in 222,497 Australian adults. Arch intern med. 2012;172(6):494-500