We sit on our commute to work, we sit at work, we sit on our way homes, we sit to eat our meals, and we often finish the night sitting on the couch watching TV. Why is the important? Because the research says so! We know that sitting at a desk can cause headaches, back pain, neck and elbow pain. But did you know that prolonged sitting is linked to elevated risk of heart disease, diabetes, hypertension and certain types of cancer? Our bodies are just not designed for the idle position associated with prolonged sitting.
Dr. James Levine, director of the Mayo Clinic-Arizona State University Obesity Solutions Initiative compared sitting to smoking, he’s coined the term “sitting is the new smoking” due to the irreversible negative effects prolonged sitting can have on one’s health.
He also wrote in Scientific American:
“Lack of movement slows metabolism, reducing the amount of food that is converted to energy and thus promoting fat accumulation, obesity, and the litany of ills—heart disease, sitting in your chair after a meal leads to high blood sugar spikes, whereas getting up after you eat can cut those spikes in half.”
Sitting for long periods can also have negative effects on one’s mental health. Studies have found women who sit more than seven hours per day were found to have a 47 percent higher risk of depression than women who sit four hours or less.
It’s also important to note that sitting all day is harmful no matter how strong, fit or flexible you are. Here are some tips on how you can minimize your sitting time and how to prevent injuries associated with sitting. May I suggest you stand while reading the rest of this article.
Stand Up! – Many of use work on lap tops during the day, due to the convenience of portability. So who says we have to sit at one desk all day long? Consider moving to a countertop desk or a standing desk. One particular study found that those who used such workstations replaced 25 percent of their sitting time with standing and boosted their well-being (while decreasing fatigue and appetite). If you’re like me, you may get so caught up in your work that hours go by before you realize that you’ve been sitting for so long. The good news is, there’s an app for that! There are numerous apps that will allow you to set reminders to get you up every hour or get moving. The Ontario Chiropractic Association has created the Straighten Up App. This app includes a posture program that you can use in just three minutes a day. It’s free and specifically designed and completely dedicated to improving posture and spinal health.
Get moving – I recently read an article outlining the benefits of a walking meeting. Why sit at a table and discuss business, when you can be walking and talking? Not only does walking help improve cardiovascular fitness but walking meeting participants demonstrate more creativity when compared to their sitting counterparts. In fact, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is a big fan of the walk and talk. Secondly, try walking over to a colleague to ask a question or discuss an issue instead of sending an email or picking up the phone.
Choose a Good Office Chair - If you have to sit, what is important in preventing injury and strain is to be able to easily vary your sitting positions throughout the day. An investment in a good office chair can help a lot. The right chair for you should:
• Be easily adjustable to suit your size
• Adapt to support your spine in various working positions- try to keep the angle between your thighs and torso to 90-110 degrees
• Have a backrest that supports your lower back- the curve of the chair should match the curve of your spine
• Have armrests, if they are appropriate to your work – elbows should be at a 90 degree angle and close to your sides
• Have a front edge that curves downward to promote proper posture – try to keep your knees slightly below your hips to ensure adequate circulation with feet flat on the floor
Get your Screen Right - Whether you’re sitting or standing, the top of your computer screen should be level with your eyes, so you’re only looking down between 10-25 degrees to view the screen. If it’s lower, you’ll move your head downward, which can lead to back and neck pain. If it’s higher, it can cause increased strain on the muscles of eye and lead to headaches.
Drink From Small Cups - This is one of my favorite tips. I find it has really helped get me moving during my day. Using a small water cup, instead of a large jug, means that I have to get up from my desk more often to refill my cup. Although it only takes a couple of minutes to refill, added up it means I am sitting less and moving more.