It is now widely understood that sitting for extended periods of time throughout the day is detrimental to health and longevity. With our digital and information age, many jobs include sitting behind a desk. For many people, this could mean sitting for 8 or more hours a day. Not to mention, just watching TV at the end of a long day can add to the total amount of “posterior break-time.”
Many people believe that spending 30 minutes to an hour exercising can offset the negative side effects of sitting for long periods of time throughout the day. Even if you spend an hour pushing your body to the limit with strenuous activity, those 8-10 hours sitting may have already caused damage.
How sitting for long periods of time affects the body
Research has solidified the notion that sitting for extended periods of time causes damage to the body. First off, our posture suffers. Being hunched over in a chair causes a stiff neck and sore shoulders. Continuous sitting can even cause an inflexible spine and possible disk problems.
According to the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, a woman who sits 5 hours or less a day has a greatly decreased risk of heart disease than a woman who sits 10 or more hours a day. Sitting for long periods of time has been directly linked to high cholesterol and high blood pressure. The risk of heart-related medical problems increases with each hour spent in a chair.
An increased risk of diabetes has also been linked to sitting. Blood sugar levels are higher than normal with people who sit for a long period of time. The pancreas increases the amount of insulin produced and can cause Type II diabetes.
Certain cancers are also associated with unhealthy levels of sitting. Endometrial, breast, and colon cancer risk levels increase with the amount of time you spend sitting. The increased weight gain and boosted insulin levels from being sedentary are thought to aggregate these types of cancers.
Plus, don’t we all want to look a little better and healthier? Sitting causes fatter and more limp glutes. Not to mention, sitting can cause a weak and possibly flabby midsection due to the fact that the abdominal muscles are not being used frequently. All that time spent doing squats and ab crunches may be offset by the amount of time sitting.
Fortunately, there is hope in fighting the detrimental effects of sitting.
Even though the damage is done from sitting for long periods of time, we can still live healthy lives. Dr. James Levine, a medical professor for the Mayo Clinic in Arizona and an obesity expert, has much to say on the subject of sitting.
Dr. James Levine stated, “First of all if you go to the gym, that does do you good. In fact, that is a phenomenal dose-response relationship. The more you do, the more benefit you get. That does not, however, relinquish you from the responsibility of being active throughout the day or of realizing the opportunities to be active throughout the day.”
We should strive to break up the continuous sitting throughout the day. Forming a habit of taking small breaks throughout the day can help fight the negative impact of sitting. Dr. Levine recommends breaking up each hour with 10-minute intervals spent moving. He said, “The bottom line is that if you’ve been sitting for an hour, you’ve been sitting for too long. We should all be up at least 10 minutes out of every hour.”
If you feel like you’ve been sitting a while, stand up, stretch, or take a walk. It may be a good idea to set an alarm on your phone to alert you to take a break from sitting each hour.
Tips to help you get up and move
After you have been sitting for a while, it is a good idea to stretch. Stretch your hamstrings by bending over and touching your toes while keeping your legs relatively straight. While standing, grab your left foot with your left hand and pull until you feel the tension on your quad. Repeat with the right foot and right hand to stretch your quads.
If you are watching TV, stand up and walk during commercials or use the commercial break to get a set in of pushups or sit-ups. When there is a choice between taking an escalator or stairs, choose the stairs. Keep an active lifestyle and focus on getting 30 minutes to an hour of strenuous exercise per day.
Tools to help your posture and limit the damage of sitting
Use a Stability Ball Chair while sitting at a desk to improve your posture and prevent slouching. They promote active sitting by forcing your abdominal muscles to work to stabilize your core.
Top 10 Stability Ball Chairs on Amazon.com
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Finding Your Physical Movement- discover what your body wants
It’s almost weekly, I hear someone say, “But I hate running.” Others often make the excuse of not exercising because of their busy lives. Finding your movement can and will positively impact your life. It will be an outlet and can, very well, become a life passion. First, let’s define what your movement is and then we can dive into trying to discover it.
What is a Movement?
We aren’t talking about a movement or rally trying to advance a political agenda. This isn’t about a movement to another city. We are talking about a person’s physical movement. The movement your body enjoys, loves, and craves. A movement is a way an individual can express themselves physically.
A movement can be something very active and fast-paced, such as running or cycling. It can be something relaxing, as in yoga or Tai Chi. Maybe, yours is very expressive, like dancing or doing a martial art. Everyone is built and wired differently, so there are different movements for all types of people.
While growing up, did you have a sport that you absolutely loved? I ran in cross-country through middle and high school and looked forward to practicing every day. I couldn’t wait to get out of school and meet up with the team. I loved the camaraderie and the friendships, but more importantly, I loved the way my body felt. It was a natural feeling for me to be running. I loved the trails, feeling like I was gliding. I loved the endorphin high I would get. And then I stopped running.
I moved on to college and running was on the back burner of my mind. The healthy and energized feeling I had slowly disappeared. I tried other activities, such as weight lifting or Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. While I enjoyed those, nothing quite felt the same as when I was running.
Fast forward a couple of years, a buddy of mine and a fellow firefighter decided he wanted to do a triathlon. He wanted a training partner and asked if I’d do it with him. Instantly, my excitement peaked and I jumped on the opportunity. Getting back into running was physically tough at first, but I enjoyed the feeling of it. It felt natural for me. I felt more alive than I had in years. I had discovered my movement and it brought new energy and happiness to my life.
The Importance of Finding and Using your Movement
Unlocking the physical activity meant for you can change your life. Discovering your movement will center you. It will add to your health and, most definitely, add to your happiness. If you aren’t already exercising, it will get you off the couch and provide you with an outlet to become more active. If you are already exercising regularly, but don’t enjoy it, finding your movement will give you a new sense of motivation and enjoyment.
The health benefits of doing regular exercise are undeniable. Knowing the exercise you enjoy will give you the daily motivation and desire to move. You will feel more energized. Maybe, you will shed a few pounds. Possibly, your movement is weight lifting and you’ll gain muscle and strength. You will have a desire to make goals centered around your movement. You may want to sign up for a 5K run or possibly, a cross-fit competition.
Trying a new physical activity, if you don’t already know your body’s preferred exercise, can create new friendships. Whether its a martial art, a dance studio, a yoga class, cross-fit workout, or group run, you can expand your social circle with your newly found exercise. The feeling of inspiration will pour over you. Regular activity increases vitality and longevity.
Finding YOUR Movement
Everyone has a movement they can enjoy. For some, it’ll be easy to discover. Think about what you enjoyed doing while you were young. Is there an activity you’ve never tried, but you’ve always wanted to?
If you’re having trouble discovering the movement that really makes you tick, make a list of different activities and start trying them until you find the one you really love. Here are some examples you could try:
- Rock Climbing
For some, they may enjoy a combination of movements. Personally, I love triathlons. I find great enjoyment out of swimming, biking, and running. Endurance sports feels natural to me.
Find what you enjoy and DO it. You’ll be happier and healthier for it. Find your movement, I promise you won’t regret it!
Do you already know your movement? Comment below to let us know what your movement is. You may just inspire someone to find theirs.