161 hours part 5: How to Deal with Sitting


by Devin Sarno, NSCA-CPT

Outside of your time at the gym, chances are most of you probably spend most of your time sitting; whether it’s by choice or just something you have to do for work. Unfortunately, excessive sitting can lead to a variety of physical health issues that will not only effect your time spent at the gym, but you also your everyday life and overall health. A number of people even refer to sitting as “the new smoking.”

Now you’re probably thinking, it can’t really be that bad can it? Well, one of the numerous problems it can cause are muscle and joint related issues. Long periods of sitting can cause atrophy to your leg and glute muscles, which are essential to stabilization and movement. It will also cause your hip flexors to shorten, causing issues with your hip joints. Even your spine can be greatly affected by prolonged sitting, as it can cause compression of discs in some situations, which can also cause premature degeneration. Beyond that, it can also cause your neck and shoulders to stiffen up.

Those are just muscular and joint issues; there are a number of other issues linked to excessive amounts of sitting. It makes your digestion less efficient, as well as putting you at risk for metabolic syndrome. Some recent studies are also revealing that excessive sitting can lead to a higher risk of developing certain types of cancer. Heart disease and diabetes rates are also significantly higher among individuals that spend a greater amount of time sitting. It can even cause vein issues in your legs due to the blood that pools during excessive bouts of sitting; this includes varicose veins as well as blood clots.

So now that you have an idea of the variety of issues linked to too much sitting, how can you help fight the issues? Currently, research is saying that 60-75 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise should be performed on a daily basis to help fight the effects of sitting. However, there are other ways you can try to work through these issues as well. For starters, see if your current job offers any options for standing desks. If not, find excuses to get out of your desk and stand! Just on the phone and don’t really need your computer? Stand up! Have a one on one meeting with a coworker? Try taking some laps around the office or the building stairs together. Need to ask a coworker a question? Walk over to their desks instead of taking the easy way out and sending an e-mail. Do you live close to work or other destinations? Try walking or biking instead of hopping in the car and driving there. It will also be helpful to try taking the stairs every chance you get rather than an escalator or elevator. You can also try parking further away from whatever building you are going into, whether it be work, a store, or a restaurant. Are you on lunch or a 15 minute break? Take the break somewhere away from your desk! Walk outside, even if it is just to your car. Even if it’s the winter, you can take some laps around the building. You can even do something as simple as not having a garbage can under your desk so that you have to get up to throw anything away.

While too much sitting can definitely be detrimental to our physical health, there are a wide variety of ways that you can help yourself avoid the detriments. Don’t be satisfied with just spending the day sitting. Get up and move! Especially if you find that you are doing a lot of sitting at work, don’t just come home and plop down on the couch to watch some television. Take your dogs for a walk, or even just go by yourself, a friend, or significant other. Make your evenings productive. Do some grocery shopping during the week and take multiple laps around the store. Try to do some yard work, or cleaning around the house to help keep yourself moving when you get home. If you absolutely have nothing that you feel needs to be done, challenge yourself and find something! Our bodies are made to move, so don’t let them go to waste by sitting down all day!


Better Health

Mayo Clinic

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