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!

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