Combating Your Sitting Disease

My last post was about the detrimental effects of sitting on our health.  If you missed it, click HERE.  In it I spoke of physical and physiological effects on our bodies.  Hopefully that has spurred your interest in how to solve the issue.  After all, our culture, as I stated, is now designed around sitting. We sit at work and we sit at home.  Oh and in between, we sit while we drive from home to work and back again.

So what do we do???

Start by finding ways to not sit any longer than 30 minutes at a time.  Some of the fitness bands, like the UP band by Jawbone, have a setting that allows it to vibrate on your wrist after “x” amount of time being sedentary.  That would help.  There are software programs that you can download to your computer if you find that your screen time is what keeps you sitting for too long.  One is workrave and another is Breaker.  Those are windows based options.  For those that like Macs, another software is found here called Timeout.  I don’t use either as my job has me up and down all day, never sitting for more than 10-15 minutes.

You can also set an alarm on your phone that repeats every 30 – 60 minutes.  Use that time to go get some water.  Or you can save up any physical paperwork you have that needs to be filed away or brought to someone and do it on your breaks..  You can even just decide that you will stand up and do 25 jumping jacks or squats during that break.  Look up stretches for the neck, upper back, hamstrings and hip flexors to do on your breaks.  All of those muscles need attention if you’re a regular sitter.  Just be sure you’re getting out of your chair to do them.

How about if you get stuck watching sports shows or other TV?  Use those commercials appropriately.  You know you complain about them anyway.  So, when they come on, get up and go do something.  Work in the kitchen.  Walk outside and breathe in some fresher air.  Throw the ball to your dog a few times in the backyard.  Do some of the exercises we spoke about.  Do a plank for 30 seconds to a minute (or however long you can).  Drink some water.  If you drink water regularly, you’ll have other reasons to get up and go (pun intended).

Really, it’s very simple.  Just becoming aware of your sitting habits is the starting point.  More than likely, you have the habit of sitting too much, whether at home or at work or in the car.  Evaluate your days, and choose an appropriate response.

Until next time…. Be Well!

Dr. B

Is Sitting Killing You?

Our entire culture is designed around sitting, and it’s killing us.  Period.  It is being written that sitting is to our generation as smoking was to the previous generation with regards to the one thing we do that most significantly impacts our health negatively.

Think about it.  If you’re near my age (50……yeesh) or older, how much sitting did you do as a child (other than at school)compared to now?  Not much.  We had no large amount of entertainment that would keep us sitting for long periods.  I remember in the summers I was out the door at 9:00, often with a PB and J made to eat out in the woods with my friends.  We’d hike, run, climb, shoot at rabbits, birds, chase each other, play football in the street, play baseball in back yard, walk to the local park, walk to the city pool, walk to baseball practice etc.  We’d return for dinner (or lunch if we hadn’t made the sandwiches), then head back out after dinner til Mom called us in after dark sometime.  It was a 12 hour day for the most part.  12 hours of moving around in some form or fashion.

Now we sit.  And sit.  And sit.

And then, we sit some more.

Kids today have games and iPhones, tablets, laptops, and not to mention the 400 channels on TV to keep them entertained in the seated position.  When I was a kid, Pong came out.  We borrowed it from a friend, played it for a bit, then ran outside. This lack of movement is one of the reasons the current generation of youth are the first generation in the history of mankind expected to have shorter lifespans than their parents.  Think about that for a bit.

As adults, our jobs, even many of our blue collar jobs, revolve around sitting.  We email documents to each other in the office, instead of walking the document to someone else’s office.  We work through lunch, sitting all the while.  Other jobs require extended periods of sitting in our vehicles traveling across town to the next customer.  If we travel for work, we sit in an airport for a couple of hours prior to our flight, then we sit for 2 hours of flying (or more).  We sit in the taxi that takes us to our business meeting, then we sit through meetings, sit through dinner and retire to our hotel room and sit at a desk or on the bed watching TV.

So…. what does this do to us?  I teach my patients it affects us physically and physiologically. I’ll explain these two things here.

Physically, the moment we sit down, our core musculature shuts down.  So it is constantly weakening.  That leaves us susceptible to back pain and injuries.  If you’re like most people, you’re often sitting and looking at a  screen (like now).  You’re on a computer, laptop, tablet or phone.  Your mid back is now hunching forward as is your neck.  This causes consistent stress on the upper back and neck as they work harder to keep your head in an upright position and creates headaches, neck and shoulder pain and burning between the shoulder blades.  It also contributes to the “hump back” and forward head carriage we see in people as they age.  I have seen more and more people with that syndrome at younger and younger ages as my time in practice has progressed.  Sitting like that also makes it very hard to take good full deep breaths.  Trust me…try sitting up straight and taking deep abdominal breaths……..then try it slouching down……..it’s not very effective.

Physiologically, sitting for extended periods wreaks havoc on you as well.  Prolonged sitting (sitting more than 8 hours in a day) increases your chances of diabetes by 90%.  A study in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that people who sat for prolonged periods of time had a higher risk of dying from all causes — even those who exercised regularly. In other words, even if you exercise regularly, you can’t out exercise your excessive sitting.  And, if you sit and DON’T exercise, the effects on you are even worse. Excessive sitting has been linked to dementia, and dangerous blood lipid levels (triglycerides and cholesterol).

And here’s a biggie:  Prolonged sitting, (more than 8 hours/day) has been linked to a 66%t increase in uterine cancer and a 30% increase in colon cancer.  So sitting increases your chances of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancers, dementia….and most likely even more than that.  That is just plain no bueno.  And chances are, you ARE one of those sitting for those extended times.

So we’ve established how bad sitting is for you……..now what?  That’s a great question.  I’m glad you asked.  I’ll touch on that in my next post.

Until then….Be Well!