Can sitting for long periods of time be that bad for you?

Can sitting for long periods of time be that bad for you?

Written By: Mario Ashley, MBA

I know how ridiculous this sounds but from a physiological perspective the research continues to prove how terrible sitting for long periods of time is for you. I’m not proposing that, if you smoke, you can keep doing it as long as you stand more. Let’s not forget the obvious, smoking will kill you (probably faster than sitting ever will). I just want you to consider a simple lifestyle habit that you’ve probably never even thought about before.

In the American Journal of Public Health researchers report that excessive sitting defined as roughly more than eight hours a day, increases the risk of premature death and some chronic diseases by 10-20%! In another report, it was shown that 85% of the workforce gets paid to work seated for 8 hours a day.

This places us in a predicament. Our jobs place us in a position (literally and figuratively) where we are forced to sit, even though we know how bad it can be for us.

Why is it so bad?

Digestion Issues
Sitting for long periods of time can affect your digestion negatively. This is especially true after eating which causes food to compress, rather than expand, while effectively slowing down your digestion due to lack of movement. This bad habit is the root cause of cramping, heartburn, bloating, and constipation. Just think about how many people are rushing to eat fast food for lunch, only to sit down for the next four hours.

Back & Core Duo
Long periods of sitting requires little to no core engagement, nor does it allow the abdominals to function the way they’re supposed to. In the standing position, the abs brace naturally. It’s not something that we even think about but its happening unconsciously. Although in the seated position our spines aren’t going to snap the seated position wreaks havoc on the low back. According to Cornell University Department of Ergonomics, up to 90% more pressure is put on your back when you sit vs. when you stand.

Tight Hips
The most common type of pain caused by sitting is caused by arthritis (inflammation of the joints). Most people associate arthritis with old age but new research is showing younger and younger populations with arthritis. The causes of hip pain in young adults has increased significantly over the last decade. The types of hip pain have increased so dramatically and the causes so complex that conditions may require diagnosis by a specialist.

So what can I do?
The easiest remedy is to stop sitting for such long periods of time. The actual execution is not so easy. Here’s what I suggest…

Set an alarm on your phone every 60-90minutes to take a walk or head down to the water cooler for five minutes to get the legs moving. This is the easiet habit you can create.

Standing Desk
A hybrid standing desk can be effective at reducing sitting time during the workday by 30 minutes to two hours per day. Additionally, by standing more throughout the day you expend approximately 170 additional calories. That’s almost 1000 extra calories burned each week from simply standing at your desk each afternoon.

Lunch Walk
Sitting behind your desk is one of the worst things you can you for digestion. In one study, albeit small, found that when adults walked on a treadmill for 15 minutes after a meal, improved blood sugar spikes for hours after walking. The reason for that is that the muscles we use to walk use glucose (aka sugar in the blod) as energy, drawing it out of circulation and therefore reducing how much is in the blood.

You don’t need to go completely change your work habits but I can guarantee from my own experience at work that my back and joints feel better and my digestion post lunch has improved since I’ve implemented these new habits.