What Happens When You Sit All Day | Good Food Made Simple
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What Happens When You Sit All Day

Mar 22, 2019

It turns out that sitting all day is more dangerous than we thought. For those of us who work a desk job, even going for an hour run or doing some other sort of exercise might not negate the effects. We’re not kidding: a team of cardiology experts found that no amount of physical activity can combat the dangerous health effects of sitting all day. Yikes.

Americans sit a lot, too. While some say we sit on average six hours a day, others say this figure is closer to 10 hours. Think about it: We sit at least eight hours at our desk in front of computer screens, working in excel sheets, replying to e-mails, making calls, or sitting in meetings. Most of us eat lunch at our desks, too. Then we come home (we’re lucky if we squeeze in a gym session beforehand) to sit in front of the TV or at the kitchen table.

 

The Health Effects of Hunkering Down

The list is not short when it comes to adverse health effects of sitting all day. Staying sedentary on our seats can produce both short and long-term effects on your body, making what seems to be a pretty passive activity potentially really harmful to our health.

Medical researchers have connected excessive sitting with an increased risk for chronic health conditions like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and even cancer. In some cases, long bouts of sitting can also increase stress and anxiety levels. Some scientists have boldly said that excessive sitting is worse for you than smoking.

People often experience muscle and joint problems too. Sitting for long periods of time can make your hip flexors super tight, which causes our butt muscles to lengthen (in order to compensate weak hips). Over time, this affects our gluteal muscles, which will soon have a hard time activating. This leads to pesky soreness, muscle pain, and an increased risk of injury while exercising. Tight hip flexors also make it harder for your pelvis to rotate properly, which can cause compression and lower back pain.

 

How to Combat the Sitting Disease

On a grand scale, the best way to combat the dangerous effects of sitting all day is to truly rethink the way we work. It could be to our benefit in more ways than one, too; a few studies found that when people stood and moved around more often during work hours, both health and productivity improved.

To get down to some numbers, sports medicine experts say we should allocate two out of the eight hours in our workday to movement. While this might seem hard, talking walking breaks, using the stairs, and run lunches (when you go for a run during your lunch break, not eat lunch on the run…) can easily fill this time.

The small changes you can make really do add up — we promise. Here are some ways to get more movement into your day to combat all the sitting we do.

Set reminders to stretch. Sometimes it’s too easy to get lost in your work and not realize you’ve been sitting for…hours. A way to make sure you’re regularly getting up and moving is to simply set reminders for yourself. You can do this easily on your phone, or download one of the handfuls of apps, like Move, Standup!, and StandApp, that do the work for you. Some allow you to set your reminder interval to any five-minute increment between five minutes and two hours, while others even suggest small exercises to do while you stretch your legs.

Change up your commute. If you drive to work every day, consider what would happen if you could walk, ride a bike, or take public transportation instead. Not only is this good for the environment, but it’s super beneficial for your body. If your work is far away, see if you can walk or bike to a public transit station. If you’re only a few miles away, squeeze in your morning exercise by using your own two feet to get to the office.

Invest in a standing desk. Standing desks are huge! You can literally negate all of the sitting by having a desk set up where you can stand instead. If applicable, see if your company is willing to invest in a desk for its employees. If not, we promise it’s worth the investment. You can also DIY your own desk by placing your computer on top of a large box and a stack of books.

Host walking meetings. Whether on a call or in person, why not take a meeting around the block? If no powerpoints or excel sheets are necessary, use a meeting to also get your legs moving.

Take the stairs. In every possible scenario, skip the elevator and take the stairs. This small change will certainly add up; not only will you get more steps in, but you’ll strengthen your muscles too!

While the sitting epidemic is becoming more and more serious, if we can commit to some lifestyle changes, we can keep ourselves healthy and strong. Even if you don’t totally notice how sitting all day is affecting your body, it most likely is. Focus on moving, standing, and walking whenever possible to do yourself — and your health — a huge favor.

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