It’s been said that too much of anything can be bad for you. And according to Seattle-area physical therapist Quinn Sundvall, this theory holds true with sitting – or, pretty much any prolonged sedentary behavior, for that matter.
In an age when more people find themselves sitting for hours at a time at home, in transit and at work, researchers are finding sobering parallels between inactivity and an increased risk of health complications and chronic diseases. Yet studies have shown that the average American spends more than half of his or her waking hours in a seated position, mostly while at work.
“We’re at an incredible time in our country when a growing number of people are beginning to accept the fact that movement is medicine, and yet they still find themselves sitting throughout most of the day,” said Sundvall, DPT, of RET Physical Therapy Group. “Without making concerted efforts to overcome all this sitting, this can unfortunately lead to issues like obesity, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.”
One Mayo Clinic cardiologist, Martha Grogan, M.D., has even compared the effects of excessive sitting with that of smoking. So how does one combat such inactivity, especially if your career requires a lot of time in a chair?
“It’s all about moving, engaging your muscles and waking up your body, even if it’s just a little at a time,” said Sundvall. “Such efforts help keep your body alert, burning calories and increasing your energy levels.”
To accomplish this within a work environment, Sundvall offers the following advice:
Sweat Your Commute: Instead of driving or taking the bus/train to work, get up early and walk. Or, ride your bike. If you have to drive, park at the far end of the lot, then take the stairs whenever possible.
Take a Stand: Take advantage of any opportunity you have to stand. If you can’t get your boss to buy you an adjustable-height desk, then stand when you’re on the phone or eating your lunch. Trade internal instant messaging for a quick walk to a coworker’s desk.
Break for Fitness: When you take breaks, don’t just sit in the lounge with a coffee, snack and your smartphone. Take a quick walk around the building or block, or do some stretching.
Have a (Fitness) Ball: Trade your chair for a fitness/stability ball. Sitting on one of these all day will improve your balance and tone your core muscles while you accomplish your daily tasks.
In addition, Sundvall says sitting throughout the day can cause weaknesses in your muscles and joints which can lead to poor posture and unhealthy imbalances in your body. Over time, this can cause discomfort, pain, injury or other complications. If this is a concern, a physical therapy team like that at RET Physical Therapy Group can assess a person’s individual situation, identify weaknesses and imbalances in the body, and put her or him on track toward preventing future complications.