Is sitting the new smoking?
Doctor of Chiropractic, Ingvild Næstvold give us an insight into how sitting all day can be detrimental to your health.
Your fridge is stocked with wholesome food, you’ve scheduled to go to the gym a few times this week and there’s a large bottle of water on your desk to monitor your intake. Sounds like you’re onto a healthy winning streak, right? Well you’re part of the way there, but a daily habit of yours could be having a detrimental impact on your health. Here’s why sitting is the new smoking!
If you’re reading this sitting down, you’re basically slowly killing yourself! There’s no sugar-coated way of saying this. The majority of us sit for more than 9 hours every day, be that whilst we’re travelling, working, eating and socialising. This is more than we spend sleeping! Sitting is so prevalent we don’t question how much we’re doing it, or its impact on us. Everyone else is - sitting seems like the norm.
Take a moment, pause: add up the hours you’ve spent sat on your behind today or yesterday. Don’t forget the sitting when you travelled to and from work, or the collapsing on the sofa once you get home - it all adds up.
Sitting: the not so good, the bad and the plain ugly
‘So what?’, I hear you cry. Is sitting really that bad? Apart from the obvious – sore shoulders, neck and back and an increase in obesity, sitting leads to a host of minor and chronic musculoskeletal problems.
If that’s not enough to make you jump - not sit - up and start moving, our inactivity has been shown to have direct links to increased risks of chronic health complications, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, raised cholesterol and even cancer (specifically breast and colon cancer). Studies have also shown a link to kidney disease, poor circulation and soft bones. The ugly truth is that those of us sitting for more than 11 cumulative hours a day, have a 40% higher risk of dying within 3 years!
Hang on, I go to the gym and I’m pretty healthy anyway!
You can’t ‘sit and be fit’. Unfortunately you’re not protected by simply going to the gym for an hour every day. Sorry! Of course, your daily exercise routine will lower risks of the above health conditions but it doesn’t completely negate the risks associated with sitting. Just as smoking doesn’t prevent you getting cancer, when we sit for more of the day than we move, we re-program our central nervous system and our brain to “slow down”. This leads to you functioning at a level of balance that is below ideal.
How your body moves and how frequently, what you eat, how well you breath and how you deal with stress all impact your body’s functions - blood pressure, heart rate, mood, cholesterol levels and hormone levels change as a direct response. Yes, it’s really as intricate as that. Poor motion + poor diet + poor emotion = poor health.
I have to sit in my office, is it all doom and gloom for me?
Where do you start to undo some of the negative effects of so much sitting? You’re in luck, it’s easier than you think! The health of your spine has a big impact on the rest of your body – no wonder, your spine is the highway between your central nervous system and your surrounding environment. When you improve your spinal health, you improve your overall health.
More movement and less sitting coupled with better nutrition and mindfulness brings the rest of the body back towards its optimal ‘homeostatic’ balance (i.e. the body’s natural equilibrium). Joints don’t spontaneously get better on their own. They tend to get worse; therefore so do all the things attached to them. Strength and stability comes from daily functional activity, such as bending, walking, stretching or strength training. Your body and its central nervous system (the system that controls everything) always wants to be in balance - you just need to look after it properly, and the central nervous system will take care of the rest.
So what can I do to improve my overall health?
Here’re some suggestions Dr. Ingvild Næstvold recommend:
- Don’t sit all day. Consider using a standing desk, like Deskmate*. These are becoming increasingly popular in the workplace, and are a great way to ensure you move throughout the day. Studies show that standing while working makes you more focused and productive.
- Park your car further away from your home or office or get off the tube/bus one stop earlier. Your pedometer will thank you for it!
- Use the stairs rather than the lift or escalator. You will hopefully end up moving more than sitting each day.
- Eating your lunch ‘al desko’ (at your desk) results in you being glued to it even longer. Eat your lunch ‘al fresco’ (outside) to get a much needed respite from your emails - and you can have a healthy dose of Vitamin D too, if it’s not raining!
- Walk and talk: be that when on the phone, social activities, or why not suggest an informal meeting whilst walking outside. The smokers get to go outside for their cigarette break, so why not have a quick walk and talk?
- Get up from your desk as much as possible – every 20-30 minutes is ideal. It actually allows your brain to concentrate better, so you should end up more productive. Win win!
- Drink more water. A simple one, but first off you have to get up to fill up, and secondly you will then have to get up to go to the loo more often which equals more movement.
- Smart watches & Health Apps - you can schedule many smart watches and apps to buzz when you’ve been inactive for a certain period of time. This is a great reminder to not only move, but give you brain some rest and come back to your desk refreshed. Also download mindfulness apps - these mini breaks serve both body and mind!
- Don’t suffer, if you have pain in your back or neck, consider taking professional advice; visit a Chiropractor. A musculoskeletal expert will help get your joints (and muscles) back to their full range of motion, therefore easing - if not eliminating - pain and discomfort. Over time, your body will become more robust and better at dealing with the day-to-day stresses of a fast-paced lifestyle.
*Deskmate is an affordable tabletop stand-up desk which pops up in seconds, is environmentally friendly and will improve your comfort, productivity and health!
London Wellness Centre have teamed up with Deskmate to encourage desk workers to improve their posture and to change their position whilst working in the office or home. Visit www.deskmate.co - for a limited time only, get 10% off each Deskmate purchase with our unique discount code: LWC&DESKMATE.
Chiropractor at London Wellness