Are you sitting too much? You’re not alone. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, more than 60% of American adults don’t get the recommended amount of physical activity. And for many people, sitting for prolonged periods is part of their regular day-to-day routine. While there’s no definitive answer to whether sitting is terrible for your health, researchers are starting to understand the risks associated with sedentary behavior. So what can you do to break up all that sitting and improve your health?
The Health Risks Associated with Sitting Too Much
- Obesity and Heart Diseases
Sitting for long periods, especially without getting up to move around, can lead to a whole range of problems. It is because prolonged sitting slows down your metabolism, which leads to weight gain, and it also causes blood sugar levels to rise, which can lead to type 2 diabetes. Sitting also increases the chance that you’ll develop high cholesterol or clogged arteries, which will increase your chances of having a stroke or other cardiovascular event later in life.
Research has proven that people who sit the most are more likely to develop cancer than those who sit less. When you’re sitting all the time, your body isn’t getting the blood flow and exercise it needs, leading to issues like obesity and heart disease. And as you all know, obesity and heart disease are major risk factors for cancer.
- Neck and Back Pain
There are many health risks associated with sitting too much, such as neck and back pain. Sitting for long periods can lead to muscle stiffness in the upper body which causes tension headaches, fatigue, and soreness when standing up from a seated position. Sitting also decreases circulation, creates pressure on the lower back and hips, can cause leg cramps or numbness, among other symptoms.
- Weak Bones
Research shows that people who sit for more than eight hours a day have a higher risk of developing weak bones. When you sit all the time, your muscles don’t get the exercise they require, leading to weak bones.
A British study found those who sit for more than 4 hours a day have twice the risk of developing depression as people who sit for less than 2 hours per day. Sitting too much may cause hormonal changes that lead to mood disorders like depression by affecting serotonin levels and causing inflammation in your body. There are other environmental factors such as lack of sunlight exposure which could contribute to higher rates of depression among those who spend most of their days sitting down at work or home.
How to Break the Habit of Sitting for Long periods
- Stand Up While or Working
If you can, take a quick walk around the block or office. Not only will this help to break the habit of sitting for long periods, but it will also improve your energy and productivity. If you work at a desk, try to get up every 30 minutes and move around. Walk to the water cooler, chat with a coworker, or do some stretches. Walking around will help keep your body active, and your mind focused.
- Park Further Away From the EntrancePark further away from the entrance of stores and take the stairs instead of the elevator. These two small changes will make a big difference in your ability to break bad sitting habits. If you are constantly using elevators or walking up flights of stairs, it is much more challenging to sit for long periods at a time. It can be very beneficial for those with sedentary jobs and those who might not have access to parking near their workplace and end up taking public transit every day.
- Invest in a Standing Desk or a Treadmill Desk
It’s essential to find ways to stay active even when you’re at work to break the habit of sitting for long periods. One way to do this is by investing in a standing desk or a treadmill desk. These desks allow you to remain productive while still getting the benefits of being active. If you can’t afford a standing or treadmill desk, there are other ways to stay active throughout the day. Take a break every hour to walk around the office, or go for a quick walk outside during your lunch break. No matter what method you choose, it’s essential to make a concerted effort to move more throughout the day.
- Join a Walking Group or Take Up a Sport to Get More Exercise
When it comes to breaking the habit of sitting for long periods, one of the best things you can do is get up and move around. Join a walking group or take up a sport to get more exercise. Not only will this help break the habit of sitting, but it will also improve your health overall.
Examples of Low-Impact Exercises That You Can Do At Home or the Office
- Arm Circles ━ Begin by sitting straight in a chair with good posture. Start by taking deep breaths and stretching your arms out in front of you. Then rotate both arms clockwise as far as possible without lifting from the seat (about 12 rotations). Next, rotate them counterclockwise about eight times before returning the hands down to their starting position near your lap. Repeat this exercise 10 times.
- Seated Calf Raises ━ Sit up straight in a chair with your feet flat on the ground. Place a book or other heavy object on your lap, and raise your heels off the ground so that you’re standing on your toes. Hold this position for 5 seconds, then slowly lower your heels back down to the earth. Repeat this exercise 10 times.
- Hamstring Curls ━ Lie down on your back on the floor and place your heels on top of a sturdy object like a coffee table or ottoman. Dig your heels into the thing as you curl your legs up towards your chest. Hold for a few seconds, then release and lower your legs back down. Repeat this exercise 10 times.
- Seated Back Extensions ━ Start by sitting up straight in a chair with good posture. Place your hands on the edge of the chair, then lean back slightly and press your chest out. Keep your abdominal muscles pulled in so that you’re not arching your back too much.
Are You Sitting Too Much?
Sitting for long periods is linked with several health problems such as obesity, heart disease, and cancer. But there are ways to combat the ill effects of a sedentary lifestyle. Try standing or moving around for at least five minutes every hour, take regular breaks during long periods of sitting, invest in a quality standing desk or treadmill desk, and get active outside work hours.