Sitting pains

Boris Lukin – Osteopath and Personal Trainer

Sitting: the new smoking

Some researchers believe that sitting is unhealthier than cigarettes saying “sitting is the new smoking”.

Photo: Woman in shirt and tie sitting with phone in hand.

Sitting for an hour takes 22 minutes from your life.

An Australian study that compared smoking and sitting has found that for every hour sitting down and watching TV, you cut about 22 minutes from your life span.

By contrast, it is estimated that smoking shortens the life span by about 11 minutes per cigarette.

That’s still no reason to take up smoking though.

The problem with sitting

The sitting position puts forces on the body that it is not built to accommodate. This leads to poor circulation and aches and pains in areas such as the lower back pain, shoulder and neck.

The obvious issue with sitting for more than half of the day is you’re not burning calories.

A desk job requires about 300 calories a day while a physically active job can burn up to 2,300. I hear you saying ‘but I train for an hour a day and I eat healthy and burn plenty of calories’.

Yes this is great, but research indicates that sitting for half the day in the office or on the couch still causes hormonal changes and metabolic changes that are not good for the body.

That hour training session still burns calories and provides fitness improvements, but the 8-10 hours spent sitting still affects your body in a negative way including hardening of the arteries, and a negative change in your body chemistry.

Add stress on top of that, and the combination can be lethal.

More evidence that sitting is killing you

Sitting has been shown to suppress the production of an enzyme called lipoprotein lipase, which is essential for turning bad cholesterol into good cholesterol.

Sitting can also lead to insulin resistance and therefore trouble metabolising sugar.

A study in the journal Diabetologia in November 2012 compared the data from 800,000 participants who spent the most time sitting with those who spent the least time sitting. The analysis found that people who spent more time sitting had a higher risk of:

  • developing diabetes (112%)
  • cardiovascular events (147%)
  • death from cardiovascular causes (90%)
  • death from all causes (49%).

With numbers like this who can argue that sitting is such an unhealthy activity?

How to battle the effects of sitting

But never fear there are steps (literally) that you can take to reduce the effects of sitting.

Exercise is the obvious one and especially walking, however, it doesn’t take long for the beneficial effects of exercise to wear off. For instance it only takes an hour for lipase production to reduce by 90%.

If you had cash to burn you could invest in a treadmill desk allowing you to stroll all day long while still being productive and keeping your boss happy. Here are a few other ways to incorporate more activity into your day.

Six ways to sit less during the day

  1. Go through this sequence several times a day: When you’re about to sit – Sit, stand, sit. When you’re about to stand- stand, sit, stand.
  2. Move your water bottle off your desk and across the room – so every time you want a drink you need to walk.
  3. Stand and walk around when on the phone.
  4.  Take the stairs.
  5. Get yourself a pedometer- set goals for steps and do at least 10,000 steps a day.
  6. Walk to the shops.

What other ways do you find useful to sit less? Tell us in the Comment box.

In good health,

Boris Lukin – Osteopath and Personal Trainer

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