Sucked into Sitting

Posted by: Christie Lanasa
Date: February 29, 2016

How many hours do you spend sitting at work? Most people sit quite a few. Now, think about how many hours you spend in a seated position outside of work. Driving in the car or taking public transportation, watching television, eating meals, playing on the computer, or checking emails on your phone; all of this count towards the amount of time your body spends in a seated, sedentary position. Are you getting sucked into sitting and do not even realize it?

Unfortunately, many of us are. Sitting for long periods of time has become part of our culture. It is becoming more common for someone to work an eight-hour desk job and commute for one to two hours, five days per week, than it is for someone to have a job where they are constantly on their feet and moving about during the day. Tack on responsibilities at home, family, and other life occurrences, and there’s not always a lot of time during the day to get in additional exercise.

What does sitting for long periods of time do to our bodies?
Research shows that between the years 1980 and 2000, exercise rates amongst adults in the United States stayed the same. However, our sitting time increased by 8% and obesity rates doubled. This makes sense considering sitting expends little to no energy.

According to the World Health Organization, physical inactivity is identified as the fourth-leading risk factor for death. People who sit for long periods of time have twice the rate of cardiovascular disease as people with standing jobs. Plus, prolonged sitting increases risk of type 2 diabetes by a staggering 90%.

We need to be mindful of how long we are sitting.
I recently traveled across the country for work. My total sitting time, including travel, was almost 14 hours, and I was exhausted. What was the only thing I wanted to do when I reached my final destination? That’s right. I wanted to sit down and relax, which is probably the last thing I should have done. If I had been able to muster up the motivation to take a walk or exercise, I would most likely have experienced a second wind or renewed energy that I had already convinced myself was gone. Looking back on my travel day, I realized I was not mindful about how much I was sitting down. My body and brain had transformed into a zombie-like state and I accepted it.

Maybe that is the bigger issue facing our society. Have we surrendered to the fact that we live in a sedentary world? We need to move more!

So, how do we avoid getting sucked into sitting?
Take some time to think about how sitting for long periods affects you. Be mindful of your daily routine and honestly evaluate how you can work more movement into the hours you are awake.

  • Start by understanding how much you sit each day, and try to decrease that time little by little each week.
  • It’s important to stand, stretch or take a short walk every hour (even for 2-3 minutes). This can provide both mental and physical benefits.
  • Try a few seated chair exercises to get your blood pumping.
    • One example is the leg lift and twist, which targets your lower body and core. Sitting tall on edge of chair, extend right leg out straight with foot on the floor, arms crossed over chest. Brace abs in tight and rotate torso to the right as right leg lifts to left knee, squeezing knees together. Do 20 reps, and then repeat on opposite side.
    • Another one of my favorite chair exercises is called “chair running.” Sit with legs extended, toes pointed, arms bent by sides. Brace abs in tight and hinge back until just shoulder blades are lightly touching the back of the chair, lifting legs low in front of you. Bend left knee into chest, turning right shoulder in towards knee, pulling left elbow slightly back, then quickly switch sides. Repeat as quickly as you can for 30 alternating reps.

Whether you decided to stretch, go for a short walk, or do some chair exercises, take notice of your mood and productivity levels after physical activity and reflect upon your feelings. Chances are you will probably feel more refreshed and reenergized.

The next time you’re faced with the option to sit or move, try not to get sucked into sitting. Instead, stand up for yourself!

To learn more about best practices to improve the health and wellness of employees in your office, please contact us.

Disclaimer: The information presented is for your general knowledge and does not replace the advice of your health care provider. All medical inquiries regarding your health should be presented to your health care provider.

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