Ah, sitting. It’s the great leveller. From lords to layman and all good folks in between, who among us doesn’t enjoy a good sit? And that’s a good thing too because in the 21st century we do a lot of it. The average British adult will spend around 18 years of their life sitting down; spending 51 hours and 44 minutes in a typical week on their bottom. That sounds like a lot, doesn’t it? But consider most people’s working day…
Most of us wake up, sit at the breakfast table for a little while, get in the car to go to work or sit on the bus or train. When we get to work, many of us will spend the vast majority of their working day seated at a desk. When we get home, too exhausted to do much else we will plonk ourselves down on the sofa for evening of dinner and television.
Repeat 5 days a week for the rest of your life.
The trouble is that sitting is, in evolutionary terms, a fairly new configuration for the human body and not one that we’ve properly evolved to spend long periods of time in. We are, after all, natural hunter gatherers. Our bodies are designed for walking, climbing, running, moving and foraging. This is fundamentally at odds with the kind of lifestyle most of us lead in an age of abundance…
And it’s killing us!
But I exercise regularly!
We can hear you shouting in protest now. Many of us assume that because we visit the gym for an hour or so 3 or 4 times a week that we’re inoculated against the risks that come with our sedentary lifestyles.
These people are often called “active couch potatoes” by health professionals and their personal trainers. The sad truth, however, is that spending long periods every day sitting can actually counteract the health benefits that come with exercise. A 2016 report published in the American Heart Association’s journal demonstrates that even regular and rigorous exercise is not enough to counteract the damage done to our bodies by sitting all day every day.
Even if you exercise for 2-3 hours every single day, if you sit motionless for an 8 hour workday, all that exercise won’t save you.
The scary truth about what sitting is doing to your body
So, why is sitting so bad for our bodies? Well, when we are seated (especially when craning forward to peer at a screen like a laptop of a smartphone) we crush our vital organs. And our vital organs are just that… Vital. Our lungs are constricted by our rib cages, our digestive efficiency is curtailed, the flow of blood to the heart is restricted and blood flow below the waist is massively constricted.
Our bodies are fairly resilient so the odd sedentary day might not have much of an impact. Spending day after day seated, however, can have a wide range of serious health implications.
Plainly speaking, sitting for long periods all day every day drives down your life expectancy. Don’t believe us? Get a load of these frankly scary statistics;
Those statistics make for sobering reading. Yet, even if your job and career necessitate being largely deskbound, this does not mean that you are powerless to prevent your body from the ravages of too much sitting.
What you can do about it… Which is a lot!
So, we already know that even a gruelling exercise regimen is rendered negligible if we remain inactive whenever we’re not hitting the gym. So, what can we do to mitigate the effects of all that sitting? The good news is that most of us can actually do quite a lot. You don’t need to commit to any enormous lifestyle changes, it’s simply a case of doing little things regularly.
Consistency is the key here. Just as the effects of too much sitting do not come from a single day or even a week sitting at our desks or on our sofas, so too does it take more than a day or a week to reverse the effects.
Actionable solutions for even the deskbound include;
Visit the water cooler
It’s important for your physical wellbeing and cognitive function to stay hydrated. Why not kill two birds with one stone and take a 5 minute trip to the water cooler every 30 minutes you spend sitting. It stretches the legs, loosens the muscles and, improves circulation and eases the relentless pressure on your vital organs.
Avoid hunching forward
Sitting upright doesn’t alleviate the symptoms of sitting but hunching forward certainly exacerbates them. What’s more, sitting upright can help improve your posture to ensure that pressure is not placed on your vitals while you’re standing.
Spend some time at a standing desk
Most modern workspaces incorporate at least one standing desk. It’s not a good idea to stand at it all day, but spending 2 or 3 hours at it can break the cycle of relentless sitting without damaging your productivity.
Sit down and boogie
Who says that just because you’re sitting you need to sit completely still? Moving a little at your desk, whether you’re shuffling to the beat of background music or simply fidgeting can be healthier than simply sitting completely still.
It’s never too late, or too early to start making positive changes for your body. Get up and take yourself for a little walk to the coffee machine or the water cooler. Do it right now! Your body will thank you for it.