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Prolonged sitting

15 May, 2020

Prolonged Sitting

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?

  • Fatigue
  • Back pain
  • Headaches
  • 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.

Your chiropractor will advise you how to set up your desk appropriately for your body. They can do this in person or via a  remote online consultations - where we can see you in your workspace.

They can also help you manage your pain, improve your posture and reduce stiffness.

Appointments available in Moonee Ponds or online.

About the Author

Dr Cassie Atkinson-Quinton - Chiropractor, Pilates Instructor and Perinatal Yoga & Pilates Instructor

With 10 years experience treating musculoskeletal conditions, Cassie uses a range of therapies including gentle adjustments, specific massage techniques, laser therapy and home rehabilitation plans incorporating Pilates & yoga. She regularly treats headaches, migraines, back pain and sports injuries.

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  • 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.
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