15 May, 2020
Approximate reading time: 3 minutes
You know sitting for too long is bad. You can feel it. A TV binge makes you stiff and sore. You feel like you need to shake or stretch afterwards. Your body is telling you exactly what it needs - movement!
But it’s hard to break old habits.
According to the Australian Health Survey, the average Australian spends 13 hours a week watching TV. Plus another 9 hours on the computer outside of work hours. When we add in travel time, work and meal time, we are spending a tremendous amount of time seated.
There is a vast amount of research highlighting the ill-effects of prolonged sitting on your health. Some you can probably relate to. Have you noticed a pattern?
- Back pain
- Pins & needles in the arms and legs
- Disc damage
- Foggy head
- Poor circulation
- Muscle tightness
- Floppy, weak muscles
- Soft bones (such as osteopenia or osteoporosis)
There are also some more serious complications of prolonged sitting:
- Early death
- Colon cancer
- Cardiovascular disease
- Type two diabetes
- Weight gain
- High bad cholesterol
- Increased risk of depression & other mood disorders
Exercise doesn't cancel out the long hours spent sitting down.
Those who are involved in a high level of exercise but otherwise lead a sedentary lifestyle are still almost three times more likely to die prematurely compared to someone who spends less time seated. This jumps up to almost 8 times more likely when you have lower levels of physical exercise teamed with long periods of inactivity.
So better to exercise than not, but you still need to reduce your time spent seated.
What can you do about it?
You still have to be productive at work, so what can you do to offset some of the ill-effects of sitting:
- Get up and move. Aim for every 30 minutes to go for a few minute walk. Set reminders in your calendar until it's a habit.
- Move about whenever you can. Use a handsfree set to take phone calls or walk to a colleague’s office instead of emailing. Simple ways to get out of your seat every day.
- Use TV advertisement breaks. Each break is approximately 30 seconds. Perfect timing to do a stretch or use two adverts to do a rehab exercise. Saves you setting a timer.
- Standing desks are becoming more commonplace. It can even be taken a step further with treadmill desks. Exercise has been proven to increase productivity so you’ll be thankful for trying this out. Well, maybe after your legs recover. We frequently help people transition to stand-up desks and one thing we hear is that it takes time to get used to. Don't transition overnight!
- Drink more water. Bathroom breaks are a big motivator to move! Plus water helps to hydrate your discs and keeps your muscles limber.
- Track your steps with your phone or a pedometer. Set yourself a reasonable goal and slowly increase it. The World Health Organisation recommends you take at least 10 000 steps a day. The average person takes 3500 - 5000 steps per day - a lot of room for improvement. Start with an extra 500 steps. Slowly build it up.
- Mini workouts during the day can be easy. During your lunch break, go for a walk. Every time you are at the sink do 10 squats. When you clean your teeth, do calf raises. It'll build up over the course of the day.
We all have different body shapes, flexibility, lifestyles and pain patterns. Individualise advice will get you the biggest bang for your buck.
They can also help you manage your pain, improve your posture and reduce stiffness.
Similar articles you'll enjoy:
- Agarwal S, Steinmaus C, Harris-Adamson C. (2018) Sit- stand workstations and impact on low back discomfort: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Ergonomics. 2018 61:4. 538-552. DOI: 10.1080/00140139.2017.1402960
- Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2013, Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey: First Results, Australia, 2012-2013, Australian Bureau of Statistics, Canberra.
- Australian Bureau of Statistics 2013, Australian Health Survey: physical activity 2011-12. Australian Bureau of Statistics, Canberra. Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2013, Participation in Sport and Physical Recreation, Australia, 2011-12 Report, Australian Bureau of Statistics, Canberra.
- Bandy WD, Irion JM & Briggler M (1997). The effect of time and frequency of static stretching on flexibility of the hamstring muscles. Phys Ther 1997;77(10):1090-1096
- Brown WJ, Williams L, Ford JH, Ball K, Dobson AJ: identifying the energy gap: magnitude and determinants of 5‐year weight gain in midage women. Obes Res. 2012, 13: 1431-1441
- Davis KG, Kotowski SE, Sharma B, Herrmann D, Krishnan AP: Combating the effects of sedentary Work: postural Variability reduces musculoskeletal discomfort. Human Factors and Ergonomics Society 53rd Annual Meeting, 20–24 September: October 19–23, 2009 2009. 2009, San Antonio, Texas: SAGE Publications, 884-886.
- Ebara T, Kubo T, Inoue T, Murasaki GI, Takeyama H, Sato T, Suzumura H, Niwa S, Takanishi T, Tachi N: Effects of adjustable sit-stand VDT workstations on workers’ musculoskeletal discomfort, alertness and performance. Ind Health. 2008, 46: 497-505. 10.2486/indhealth.46.497.
- Effectiveness of the Stand More AT (SMArT) Work Intervention: cluster randomised controller trial. BMJ 2018. 363:k3870
- Healy GN, Dunstan DW, Salmon J, Cerin E, Shaw JE, Zimmet PZ, Owen N: Breaks in sedentary time. Diabetes Care. 2008, 31: 661-666. 10.2337/dc07-2046.
- Husemann B, Von Mach CY, Borsotto D, Zepf KI, Scharnbacher J: Comparisons of musculoskeletal complaints and data entry between a sitting and a sit-stand workstation paradigm. Human Factors. 2009, 51: 310-320. 10.1177/0018720809338173.
- Katzmarzyk PT, Church TS, Craig CL, Bouchard C: Sitting time and mortality from all causes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. Med Sci Sports. 2009, 41: 998-10.1249/MSS.0b013e3181930355.
- OECD: Average annual working time. Employment and labour markets: key tables from OECD, No. 8,. 2012, 10.1787/annual-work-table-2012-1-en.
- Pronk NP, Katz AS, Lowry M, Payfer JR. Reducing Occupational Sitting Time and Improving Worker Health: The Take-a-Stand Project, 2011. Prev Chronic Dis 2012;9:110323. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5888.pcd9.110323
- Van Uffelen JG, Wong J, Chau JY, Van Der Ploeg HP, Riphagen I, Gilson ND, Burton NW, Healy GN, Thorp AA, Clark BK: Occupational sitting and health risks: a systematic review. Am J Prev Med. 2010, 39: 379-388. 10.1016/j.amepre.2010.05.024.