Dangers and Alternatives: Prolonged Sitting
Joel Peterson: Level 5 Personal Trainer Apple Athletic Club
The average American sits eight hours a day. Research has shown that prolonged sitting is detrimental to our health and well-being in many ways. Read what happens when you sit for extended periods of time:
Muscles burn less fat and blood flows more sluggishly during a long sit, allowing fatty acids to more easily clog the heart.
Over Productive Pancreas
A 2011 study found a decline in insulin response after just one day of prolonged sitting.
Studies have linked sitting to a greater risk for colon, breast and endometrial cancers. The reason is unclear, but one theory is that excess insulin encourages cell growth. Another is that regular movement boosts natural antioxidants that kill cell-damaging and potentially cancer-causing free radicals.
When you stand, move or even sit up straight, abdominal muscles keep you upright. But when you slump in a chair, they go unused. Tight back muscles and wimpy abs form a posture-wrecking alliance that can exaggerate the spine’s natural arch, a condition called hyperlordosis, or swayback.
When we move around, soft discs between vertebrae expand and contract like sponges, soaking up fresh blood and nutrients. But when we sit for a long time, discs are squashed unevenly. Collagen hardens around supporting tendons and ligaments.
People who sit more are at greater risk for herniated lumbar disks.
Mortality of Sitting
People who watched the most TV in an 8.5-year study had a 61 percent greater risk of dying than those who watched less than one hour per day.
Other Problem Areas
People who sit longer experience tightening of the hips, limp gluteus muscles, poor leg circulation, soft bones, strained neck, and soreness in the shoulders and back
So what can we do? We recommend . . .
If you have to sit often, try to do it correctly. “Sit up straight.”
• No leaning forward
• Shoulders relaxed
• Arms close to sides
• Elbows bent 90°
• Feet flat on floor
• Sit on something wobbly such as an exercise ball or even a backless stool to force your core muscles to work.
• Stretch the hip flexors for three minutes per side once a day.
• Walk during breaks or commercials when you’re watching TV. Even a snail-like pace of 1 mph would burn twice the calories of sitting, and more vigorous exercise would be even better.
• Alternate between sitting and standing at your work station. If you can’t do that, stand up every half hour or so and walk.
Starting the Resistance Training Exercises we’ve posted will also help counter the effects of prolonged sitting. We recommend you don’t delay getting started!