They may live in the “City That Never Sleeps,”
but most New Yorkers still sit around a lot
– an average of seven hours every day,
a new study shows.
“With simply sitting more than three hours a day,
there is a decrease [in] life expectancy,”
Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, director of Women’s Heart Health
at Lenox Hill Hospital, New York
“Prolonged sitting has many unhealthy repercussions,
including “obesity, related diabetes, hypertension, severe
varicose veins, chronic leg swelling and chronic skin
changes with darkening and leg ulcers.”
Dr. Howard Selinger, chair of family medicine at Quinnipiac University School of Medicine, Hamden, Conn
Sitting is the New Smoking
A catchy phrase but it tends to confuse the behavior with the underlying problem. It is the lack of movement. When one sits too much muscle are inactive and prolonged gravitation forces put pressure on. The result -unhealthy reactions throughout the body.
Why So Much Sitting Now?
In previous generations people did their own housework and yard work. Now many these sorts of tasks are outsourced. Even offices require less movement. There was a time that a person had to get up throughout the day to get or return a file to a file cabinet. No more.
Short Term Impacts
- Sitting for only a minutes and metabolic processes becoming less able to remove harmful lipo-proteins and less able to regulate blood sugar levels.
- The muscles in the body become inactive and burn far fewer calories.
- Sitting is often detrimental to posture. Especially if the person rounds the back, lets the shoulders slouch and tilts the head forward and down. When this persists, productivity declines, mood drops, as does creativity.
Long Term Impacts
- The BIGGIE, sitting more than three hours per day shortens one’s lifespan. Being sedentary also make you more likely to develop chronic diseases as you age.
- Hip replacement surgery is on the rise and is happening at a younger age. The orthopedic community points their finger at excessive sitting because it weakens the strength of core muscles and increases the gravitation forces on the hips.
Overcoming the Impacts of Excessive Sitting
Some sitting is a reality for many of us but there are things you can do to reduce the impact. Here is a sampling.
- A two-minute walk can restore blood sugar levels to normal.
- Walking in nature reduces stress, elevates mood and enhances creativity.
- Taking an open-stance or the superhero pose, can reduce the impact of a slouched sitting posture.
- Focusing on something in the distance relieves eye stress on the eye promote healthy vision.
- Sitting promotes shallow breathing. The challenge is to restore deeper breathing. 4-7-8 Breathing Yoga is a quick and easy way to accomplish this in a matter of minutes.
TIP: Set the alert feature on your Smartphone for mid- morning and mid-afternoon movement break. Better yet, make it every hour. In less than five minutes you can do the activities above and have a positive impact on your health.
Daily trips to the gym DO NOT over-ride the impact of excessive sitting. Different metabolic mechanisms are at work.
Stand-up desks are not necessarily a solution. When the evidence against excessive sitting surfaced, standup desks quickly came on the market. While they can reduce the postural impacts of sitting, they don’t over-ride the sedentary effects. For people with joint, obesity or cardiovascular issues the standing desk maybe trading one problem for another. Knee and ankles joints can be affected and blood pooling can happen in the lower legs.
If you have a stand-up desk, get in the habit of shifting your weight from foot to foot on a regular basis. Add to this periodic leg squats. Hang on to the edge of the desk and squat up and down. Even with these activities, a regular movement break is advisable.
Thinking this DOESN’T APPLY TO ME? Apps like Apples Health or Move will give you a good idea of how much you move in a day. They will capture how many steps you take in a day – rough indicator of how much you move. Here is a rough guideline. If you take less than 3000 steps per day – you are sedentary. If you are around 5000 – you need to ramp it up. 7,500 to 10,000 would be a good level to shoot for – in addition to your regular exercise at the gym.
A final word when it comes to over-riding the effects of being sedentary. Frequent short periods of movement throughout the day are more effective than prolonged exercise.