Recent studies have indicated that the amount of time you spend in a chair may be a matter of life and death. In 2010, The American Journal of Epidemiology published a study indicating that women who sit for more than six hours per day are 37 percent more likely to die over a 13-year period than people who sat less than three hours a day. The study included 53,440 men and 69,776 women who were followed between 1993 and 2006.
This particular study links long-term sitting with obesity and metabolic problems. Meaning, the more you sit, the less active you are, which leads to a slew of health detriments including poor circulation, weight gain, and a raised risk for cardiovascular disease. According to this same study, men who sat more than six hours a day had an 18 percent higher risk of death over a 13-year period than men who sat three or fewer hours a day. Perhaps the most disturbing thing about this study is that it includes people who exercise after that long stationary workday.
Those that don’t counteract sitting with activity are at an even higher risk for early death. The least active women in the study who also reported the highest amount of sitting were 94 percent more likely to die than those who said they sat the least and exercised the most. For men, it was 48 percent, the study said. While the risk is higher for those that don’t fit any activity into their days, the American Cancer Society researchers have announced that regardless of how much exercise someone gets, excessive sitting is a real health concern.
So, then, if the bottom line is that sitting for hours on end every day is slowly leading to our demise—what can be done? Many of us have desk jobs or sit in long commutes every day. The key is to break up those long hours of sitting. Try to stand up every twenty to thirty minutes. Even if you’re not able to take a break that often (which most people aren’t), just the act of standing, moving your legs and arms, and re-shifting your back alignment can help.
Posture is another important element that can reduce the side effects of continuous sitting. Posture can have a large impact on health. From how we digest our food to how well we breathe, much depends on not just the length of time we sit, but how we sit. Poor posture not only can cause neck and back pain, but can also affect how you breathe and talk. A curved back can put pressure on your larynx as well as compress your internal organs, possibly resulting in sluggish bowels.
Try these tips when you’re at your desk:
- Make sure your feet are placed on the ground (not crossed, which is an unnatural pelvis and spine alignment). Both your hips and knees should be at a ninety-degree angle.
- Your head should be above your sitting bones. Try to keep a check on how often you lean forward, which puts pressure on your neck and shoulders.
- Make sure your earlobes are above your shoulders. Try rolling your shoulders up and down to relax these muscles.
- Try building core strength—working your abs at the gym can payoff at your desk. If you have a strong core, you’re less inclined to slouch or overcompensate with your back muscles.
Incorporating these simple steps into your daily routine can have a healthy payoff down the road. Take a quick walk on your lunch break, park your car at the far end of the lot, and take the stairs in addition to your posture improvements. Everything adds up! And you may notice you have more confidence when stand tall.
American Journal of Epidemiology
The American Cancer Society