The average individual spends 7.7 hours sitting each day. However, some individuals sit up to 15 hours a day. There are many reasons that may cause you to sit for such long periods of time such as long work hours, time spent in front of a TV, travel, doing leisurely activities such as reading or writing and eating. Unfortunately, there are many health hazards that accompany this sedentary lifestyle.
The Health Effects
Studies show that prolonged sitting has a drastic effect on an individual’s metabolism. The term “Sitting Disease” is a scientific word used when referring to metabolic syndrome and the health effects of a sedentary lifestyle. A 2010 study from the American Cancer Society found that 94 percent of women who were inactive and sat for more than six hours each day were more likely to die during the time period studied than those who were physically active and sat for less than three hours each day. Furthermore, 48 percent of men who were inactive and sat for more than 6 hours were more likely to die during the time period studied than those who were active.
Prolonged sitting can also have poor effects on your heart. When sitting, your blood flows more slowly throughout your body and your muscles don’t work as hard and don’t burn as much fat. You are more apt to high blood pressure and high cholesterol. You are also at a higher risk for cardiovascular disease than those who are active on a daily basis.
Furthermore, sitting for long periods of time on a frequent basis can affect your circulation. Prolonged sitting will slow down your blood circulation, causing swollen feet and ankles, varicose veins and even blood clots.
The brain is also greatly affected with little physical activity. Have you ever spent a lazy day on the couch or in bed and felt sluggish and almost like your brain was in a foggy haze? This is because when we are sedentary, our brain function slows down. The blood flow slows down when we are sedentary for too long, we don’t receive fresh blood and oxygen through our brain like we should, making us feel hazy and drastically lowering our productivity and efficiency.
How to Prevent it
If you sit throughout the day, you need to find ways to get your body moving. You may choose to go to a gym during the day, but only 31 percent of Americans actually use their free time for the gym. And while gym time may not fit in your budget or your schedule, there are small things to do throughout the day to stay active.
During your workday, it is recommended to take a break every 50-90 minutes. The ideal break length is 15-20 minutes long. During this break time, you need to get away from your computer and move your body. During your breaks you can go for a small walk or climb up and down the stairs. You can also perform several “deskercises” such as performing wall sits, lunges, standing pushups or even triceps dips in your office.
Other options can include purchasing equipment to help you stay more active while you work. Standing desks are becoming a popular option for many office workers and allow you to stand and keep your blood flowing while still focusing on your work. Many individuals are giving up their comfy office chairs for something unstable such as an exercise ball. These force you to sit up straight and use your muscles to stay balanced. You can also use an exercise ball to perform small exercises in the office during your break such as crunches or chest presses.
The Right Way to Sit
If you must sit all day, it is important you pay attention to your posture. The most important thing to remember is to sit up straight. Position your office chair so you can keep your feet firmly on the floor and your elbows bent at a 90-degree angle when typing. Avoid leaning forward and creating tension in your shoulders.
While standing all day isn’t an option, it is important that you pay attention to just how much time you sit on a daily basis. Test yourself for one week by tracking how much time you are sedentary each day. After a week, add up your time and divide it by the number of days you timed yourself. This will provide you with the average amount of time you are sedentary during the day and where you need to make some lifestyle changes.