The Health Hazards of Sitting too Much and 5 Things You Can Do to Prevent Them

By June 30, 2014General

Last week I got a stand-up desk. My new desk attachment allows me to raise my computer and keyboard and stand up while I am working. If I don’t want to stand, I can lower it back down and work from a normal seated position at my desk. Why, you ask, would I want this? After all, it is a little clunky, takes up space and requires adjustments throughout the day. Here’s why.

Most of us are aware that sitting all day long is not good for us. Back and neck pain and weight gain are what usually comes to mind. However, I was shocked to find out just how bad sitting for prolonged periods really is for us. Following is a list of health risks associated with sitting for eight hours a day: heart disease, over productive pancreas, colon cancer, muscle degeneration (weak abs and tight hips), foggy brain, strained neck, shoulder and back issues (inflexible spine and disk damage), obesity, leg disorders (poor circulation and soft bones) and increased risk of death from any cause.

Wow. As someone who works at a desk job and spends about an hour and a half in the car daily, I was concerned. I had heard of stand-up desks or treadmill desks, but didn’t know much about them. Then my husband had one installed in his office and loved it. That’s all it took, I knew I had to have one.

It has only been a week, but I am getting used to the new configuration. I find that I am definitely standing more than sitting and am happy overall with the arrangement. But what if you can’t have one of these installed in your workspace? Here are five simple things you can do to minimize your health risks:

  1. Take regular breaks. Stand up and walk every half hour.
  2. Sit on something that forces your core muscles to work. This could be an exercise ball or a backless stool.
  3. Alternate between sitting and standing. For example, stand up while talking on the phone, eating lunch or attending a meeting.
  4. Stretch your hip flexors daily for 3 minutes on each side
  5. Try yoga poses to improve extension and flexibility

If you are able to get a stand-up workstation – go for it. If not, follow the tips listed above to stay healthy.

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Sources:
Mayoclinic.com, James A. Levine, M.D., Ph. D.
Washingtonpost.com, Bonnie Berkowitz and Patterson Clark, January 2014

Author Sheryl Doyle

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