With sitting being deemed the new smoking, we give you a reality check of the damage that over-sitting incurs on you.
That office chair, couch, cushion or bean bag isn’t the real culprit. It’s your lazy habit of parking yourself in a spot that is silently ringing the death knell for you. It’s tough to avoid sitting if you work in an office environment (unless you have a standing desk like some new-age workplaces abroad). On your day off, you tend to laze around the house or, worse, be a smug couch potato, chomping on fast food in front of the television as an excuse for leisure. A recent study found that people who sat for more than 11 hours a day had a 40% higher chance of dying within three years. The risk was much lower for working executives who exercised five hours — or more — a week. However, exercise doesn’t negate the following dangers.
Lower body problems: Poor circulation in the legs can lead to swollen ankles, varicose veins and more hazardous DVT (deep vein thrombosis). Health experts also blame the rise in cases of osteoporosis to desk jobs and lack of activities like running that stimulate hip and lower-body bones to grow thicker and stronger. Scientists partially attribute the recent surge in cases of to lack of activity.
Chronic disease: Did you know that if you sit for more than four hours a day, you are more likely to have a chronic disease like high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes and cancer? A survey in Australia found that the more time participants spent sitting, the more likely they were to have one of these chronic diseases, regardless of their BMI (body mass index) or even an exercise routine.
Poor mental well-being: Who doesn’t want to unwind on the couch after a taxing day at work? However, it could be counter-productive for your mind. A study analysing the association between mental well-being and a sedentary lifestyle found that non-occupational sitting time — vegetating in front of the TV, watching films on a laptop, for instance — had a negative impact of women’s mental health in particular. Mental functioning slows down too.
Kidney disease: Those who sit less have a lower risk of chronic kidney disease. This was found to be especially true for women — when they reduce their sitting time from a full eight-hour workday to only three, their risk for kidney disease falls by 30% while for men it is 15%. The end result could be complete kidney failure.
Adult metabolic syndrome: Obesity is a pretty obvious outcome, but the whammy is Metabolic Syndrome that accompanies it. A combination of obesity, low levels of good cholesterol, high blood pressure or hyperglycaemia puts you at higher risk of metabolic syndrome, which could lead to serious conditions like heart disease, stroke and diabetes. The risk is as high as 73%! Researchers found that reducing TV and computer exposure to less than one hour a day outside office could reduce your chances of succumbing to adult metabolic syndrome.
Muscle degeneration: With extended sitting, the glutes get soft since they are used to doing nothing. This can affect your stride. Your abdominal muscles keep you straight when you are standing or walking, but bend forward or slump back in a chair, and your back muscles tighten while your abs go lax. This deadly combination effects the spine’s natural arch, leading to hyperlordosis (swayback). Chronic sitters don’t use their hip flexor muscles much, so the hips get tight and your range of motion is limited. This affects your movement as well.
Tips to get moving
– Try to answer phone calls standing up or walking around.
– If your office doesn’t provide a standing desk, find a high table or counter.
– Rather than gathering around the water cooler for a chat with your colleagues, walk around the premises with them.
– Take the stairs as often as you can. Ditching the lift will increase the blood flow to your brain too, energising you instantly.
– Take five-minute breaks to get up from your chair and clear your head every couple of hours. It will help you focus better.
– Walk around your building during lunch time. If you don’t have the space, use the footpath outside or find a park nearby.
– Find a corner where you can do stretching exercises.