How many of us sit all day at a computer for our jobs? Usually, we get so engrossed into what we are doing that we forget how long that we have been sitting there. The computer age is wonderful, but for the average worker, computer fanatic or couch potato prolonged sitting can have serious health consequences if left unchecked.
The Risks of Prolonged Sitting
To begin with, sitting for hours without a break alters your metabolism–-and not for the better. In fact, it slows down significantly in how the body burns energy. The slower metabolism becomes, the easier it is to pack on the pounds. A woman past forty even has it worse because aging already has contributed to slowing her metabolism so prolonged sitting only compounds the problem. This is only what hours of sitting can do for weight gain and an expanded waistline and spreading the derriere.
Did you know that middle-aged women are especially prone to developing type 2 diabetes even more than sedentary men? According to one study, due to female hormones the women in this group are more likely to develop inflammation, osteoporosis and lose the ability to process insulin in the same way as younger women.
Prolonged sitting can put you on the fast track to pre diabetes, vascular disease and possibly leg swelling, blood clots and Deep vein thrombosis (DVT), heart disease, colon cancer to higher cholesterol levels.
Sitting too much in front of your computer screen or game console can also cause more episodes of anxiety. Worrying about projects that need completed can affect social relationships, disrupt sleep patterns and increase stress levels. It is important to learn how to separate work time from free time to avoid this sitting risk.
Similarly, extended hours of sitting are hardly good for a back or poor neck. When the body is in a seated position, it undergoes a lot of stress on back muscles, spine and neck. An ergonomic chair may help take some of that pressure off, but rise and take a short break.
Ways to Limit the Impact of Prolonged Sitting
As depressing as this news on sitting may sound, there are some measures that can limit the damage of prolonged sitting. To illustrate, start making it a habit to get up from your seat every 20 or 30 minutes. Stretching your legs for a few minutes can help the body’s circulation to get the blood flowing even for such a short time. Walk to a meeting or another office instead of picking up a phone can be a simple way to leave your desk.
Depending on your work environment, I have another suggestion that can get you off your seat when sitting for lengths of time. Instead of sitting at your desk, when making a call, you might try standing. If you have your own office, when you get up to make that call, walk around the room as you talk.
The lunch break is another opportunity to fit more intensive exercise that may help offset some accumulated health problems from prolonged sitting. However, opinions of health experts seem to differ on that. Nonetheless, it never hurts to sit less and move more. Walk outside the building and give your legs a vigorous workout as you travel to favorite place to eat.
Though we can’t change our jobs or would necessarily want to, it is to our best interest to know the sitting risks we take and how to protect our health and well-being.