The Health Effects of Sitting

Sitting has been called a scourge of our society. Within the last few generations, most jobs have shifted from standing (factory, clerk) to sitting (secretary, computer programmer). Due to this more people are sitting all day long.   I work on people every day who suffer some health effect from sitting for long periods.   The common joint pains that I see from sitting for prolonged periods are: foot pain, ankle pain, knee pain, hip pain, stomach pain, low back pain, mid back pain, upper back pain, shoulder pain, elbow pain, wrist pain, neck pain.

  Recently the Washington Post ran an article that talked about the ills associated with prolonged sitting. The article was accompanied by a great graphic that demonstrates the issues associated with prolonged sitting.

Sitting is comfortable, and we need to sit down to rest. The issue with sitting comes into play when we do it too much. Our bodies were designed to be out in the woods foraging and hunting for food. We were designed to move all day long. We were not designed to sit all day at a desk.

If you sit all day at work, then it is impossible to sit all day with good posture. It is only a matter of time before you start slouching and you become one with your chair. Keeping a physio or gym ball in your office is a good idea. That way you can sit on it 10 to 15 minutes every hour. This will allow you to sit actively, and use the supportive muscles in your hips, low back and core to keep you upright. This will prevent you from slouching.

When you slouch at your desk, you cut off blood supply to your organs and brain. This makes you feel sluggish. This causes your brain to feel foggy. This contributes to slowing your gut down and therefore slowing down food absorption which allows for more toxins to be absorbed into your body. Prolonged sitting is believed to allow plaque to more easily clog the arteries and lead to high blood pressure and heart disease.

Muscles that are inactive are less responsive to insulin. Inactivity causes your pancreas to produce more insulin which increases your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.   Muscles that are inactive are more likely to be tight and irritated than muscles that are used consistently. A muscle that is kept in a contracted state gets tighter the longer it is contracted. This causes the muscle to be tight and irritated in general, thus making it more susceptible to pain and injury.

Bone will react to prolonged sitting as well. Bone reacts to weight bearing activities like walking, weight lifting, yoga, karate, anything where weight is supported by the body. Bone will react to weight bearing activities by becoming more dense.

The adverse of this is true as well. The less weight bearing activities, the less activity required by the bones, the more sitting someone does, and the less dense their bones will become. Bone loses density the less it is used. The more you sit, the less dense your bones become.

This is how osteo-porosis forms. Increased time spent sitting can be the cause for the high rate of osteo-porosis in our society.   Osteo-porosis is painless. When it is mild it is called osteo-penia. Osteo-porosis makes you more likely to break bones as you age. The less dense a bone is, the more fragile and easily fractured it is.

So how can you manage the symptoms associated with sitting for prolonged periods? There are many ways.

The best way, by far, is to exercise and do weight bearing exercises. Weight bearing exercises will cause your bones to react by becoming more dense.

Another way to counteract the effects of sitting for prolonged periods is to get up periodically. I recommend getting up every 30 minutes. Go to the bathroom, get a drink of water. Just get out of that position of sitting for a minute or two. If you have trouble paying attention to time, then set an alarm to go off every half an hour to remind you to get up.

Try to sit on one of those gym or physio balls. Keep one in your office if you can. I can’t imagine sitting one all day long, but just sitting on a physio ball 10 minutes every hour is enough to stimulate those sitting muscles and to get you to sit actively. Rather than slouching and becoming one with your chair.

Sitting for long periods causes to the muscles in your hips, legs, shoulders, arms and neck to get very tight. The leading cause of falls in the elderly is lack of mobility in their hips. What you do now will affect you later on in life. Don’t let the long term effects of sitting affect you long term. You can do something about it. You can reverse the effects of sitting.

Reverse the effects of sitting through an intelligently designed, comprehensive exercise, stretching and nutrition plan (like Pain Free Lifestyle), that is easy on your body, easy to follow, and won’t hurt you. That  is the Pain Free Way.

Here is a link to another article that I wrote about the effects of sitting all day and how to counter them:

Ergonomics, or How to Lessen the Effects of Sitting All Day

Here is a link to the poster that shows many of the ill effects of prolonged sitting:



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