Recent trends in medicine have shown that prolonged periods of sitting are correlated with higher risks for a variety of chronic health conditions. This article will take a look at some of that research, as well as offer some practical advice for how you can combat “The Sitting Disease.”
But wait…I work out every day! Isn’t that enough?
If you are working regular exercise into your daily and weekly routine, then good for you. Aerobic, strength, and flexibility training are a critical part of maintaining overall health.
Adding regular periods of sustained exercise to your lifestyle has many health benefits, including:
- Preventing obesity
- Lowering risk for heart disease, type 2, diabetes, stroke and other chronic diseases
- Improves mood, focus, and boosts energy
- Promotes better sleep
However, what the research on The Sitting Disease has shown is that even if you work out daily, prolonged periods of sitting or inactivity are associated with dangerous health consequences, including:
- Heart disease
- Metabolic Syndrome
- Type 2 diabetes
- Certain types of cancer
- Long term damage to the spine and overall posture
Mounting evidence suggests a change in our overall thinking when it comes to exercise. Instead of defining a “sedentary lifestyle” as one that lacks periods of sustained exercise, it should instead be defined in terms of how much time we spend NOT being active each day.
This is indeed a big change in the way we think about exercise and health.
Social and Cultural Factors: The Pace of Modern Living
As negative health trends develop in society it is important to recognize causal factors. As individuals we make choices that impact our health every day, and we have the opportunity and perhaps even the responsibility to make good choices. However, without an understanding of the causal factors, we can’t make informed decisions about where to focus our efforts.
Combatting The Sitting Disease requires that we get serious about the social forcesthat are causing this overall trend in human health:
- Work in the modern world has become more automated, with more sedentary work becoming the norm..
- Modern conveniences such as online shopping, banking, and various services allow us to do the “errands” without ever leaving the couch.
- Computers and mobile technology have increasingly driven our leisure time to non-physical activities, including movies, video games, social media and the internet.
- The growth of urban centers as the location for an increasing share of occupations means we are spending more time commuting to and from work while sitting.
Modern living in post-industrial societies has become filled with so much “convenience” that we are spending more and more our time sitting for prolonged periods. And what’s worse, the addition of exercise, perceived to be the solution to chronic lifestyle diseases, is not enough to make up for too much sitting.
Integrated Movement: Cure for The Sitting Disease?
So, what exactly does integrated movement mean?
John Hopkins cardiologist Erin Michos, M.D., M.H.S.recommends 8 minutes of standing and 2 minutes of walking for every 20 minutes of time spent sitting. Dr. Jacquelyn Kulinski suggests that simply reducing sitting by an hour or two a day could have a significant impact on the risk factors of sedentary lifestyles.
Regardless of the method you choose, it is about adding movement and reducing the length of the periods you spend sitting. If you are exercising regularly, the integrated movement does not need to be vigorous exercise. A short walk, standing up at your desk, or a brief two-minute stretch are all prime examples of how to break up that time spent sitting.
What are some practical tips for integrating movement?
First, take an inventory of the time you spend sitting by just observing your daily routines. Take some notes or a journal for a week or two just to get a good picture of where you spend the longest blocks of time sitting. This will allow you to develop a plan to start with the worst offenders first.
Once you know the regular routines that have you sitting too long, draft a list of ways to break up that time with some light standing, stretching, or walking.
Here are some tips to get you started:
- A long commute:If you find yourself in the car or on public transport for more than 20 minutes at a time, consider ways to break it up by standing, stopping to get out of the car for your morning coffee halfway through the drive, or getting up to use the bathroom midway through a long flight.
- At the office:The best way to integrate movement into your daily routine at work is to get some buy in from some of your officemates and agree on a system. This adds both social time and accountability to your plan to integrate movement into your day. Consider brainstorming ideas for 2-minute movements, placing them into a jar, and draw from the jar every 30 minutes.
- Talk to the boss:Awareness of the health risks of The Sitting Disease has been a driver for ergonomic office equipment, including standing desks. Talk to your HR department to make sure that this important health concern is on their radar for the next round of office furniture purchasing decisions.
- At home:Kids and pets are an excellent way to make an excuse to get up and move around for a short period of time to break up long periods of sitting. Consider setting an alarm for each hour and commit to a quick game of fetch with the dog or a single round of hide and seek with the kids.
Remember, adding movement doesn’t have to be vigorous exercise. It is not about adding an aerobic workout in every hour! It is just about getting up and getting your entire body moving.
Chiropractic Care and The Sitting Disease
In addition to integrating movement throughout your day, the impact of prolonged sitting at work, home, and while commuting can do serious long term damage to your overall posture, particularly neck and spine alignment.
Perhaps the most important action you can take to monitor and improve your spinal health is to make the time for a consultation with an Upper Cervical Chiropractor. Using the latest in advanced imaging technology, modern Chiropractors are able to detect, diagnose, and treat even the smallest changes to your neck and spine that can lead to system wide health problems.
The spine, and in particular the delicate vertebrae that make up the upper cervical spine, are central drivers for your overall wellness. This sensitive area connects your brain to all of your vital organs by controlling vital aspects of the nervous system and indirectly impacting overall circulation and endocrine function.
Upper Cervical Care of Glen Carbon
If you spend a great deal of your day sitting at work, home or during your commute, and happen to live in Glen Carbon, Maryville, Edwardsville or St. Louis area, then consider scheduling a consultation with our team of dedicated medical professionals.
Dr.’s Thad Vuagniaux and Matt Strazewski can help you on your wellness journey using a holistic approach to your health. We believe in treating the cause of health problems, rather than masking the symptoms with excessive use of prescription drugs and invasive surgery.