Sitting too much is pervasive in modern life. Physical labor is not a given for most of us. The many ways technology has made life easier and more amusing, have also landed us in a seat, and more than ever before. The COVID-19 pandemic compounded that by keeping us at home, closing gyms, and disrupting other exercise routines.
Working from home has its perks, but it has led to hours seated at a screen. Despite some employers’ concerns that working from home could hurt productivity, workers often spend more time working from home because they no longer commute. Between work and time spent watching television, online shopping, using social media, reading, driving, and generally relaxing, office workers spend 12 to 15 hours a day sitting, a massive uptick from previous years.
And all the warnings about posture are accurate, unfortunately. The way you sit can put your spine and overall health in jeopardy. The proper alignment of your spine, shoulders, and neck reduces wear and tear on your joints, muscles, and ligaments and will keep them healthy as you age.
The Health Risks of Sitting Too Much
Our bodies want us to move, but modern life makes it easy to be a couch potato. Today, we are presented with many perks, but a lack of movement is associated with more than 30 chronic conditions, including:
- Heart disease: Those who sit the longest have a 147 percent increase in their risk of cardiovascular events.
- Dementia: Activity tends to decline with age and may lead to cognitive decline.
- Diabetes: Sedentary behavior increases the risk of diabetes, and insulin resistance can also set in after five days of bed rest.
- Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or varicose veins: DVT occurs when a blood clot breaks free and blocks the blood supply to the lungs or heart.
- Posture: Poor posture while seated can compress the spinal discs and cause chronic pain. Your hip flexors — muscles that stabilize your spine and pelvis — can shorten, putting you at risk of injury.
- Cancer: The risk of cancer rises dramatically when you live a sedentary life. The research is not complete, but cancer may be caused by carrying extra weight, altered metabolism, inflammation, and other inactive lifestyle factors.
- Anxiety/depression: Endorphins from exercise help your mood, while being sedentary has a depressive effect.
- Weight gain: In addition to not burning calories, not moving your muscles prevents your body from releasing lipoproteins that process fats and sugar.
Life is hectic, and sometimes it feels like all we do is work, be with our families, and honor various commitments. However, it’s important to be mindful and tend to our bodies. Moving should be a priority for everyone, and the health risks of sitting shouldn’t be underestimated.
How to Avoid Sitting Too Much
Joining a gym and working out every day isn’t for everyone, but the key is to be moving regularly. While regular exercise is critical for your wellbeing, incorporating short bursts of activity into your day does wonders for your overall health. A busy life, an office job, or schoolwork needn’t stop you from getting up and moving about.
Easy ways to increase daily movement include:
- Take breaks from desk work: Remember to get up and stretch, dance to a favorite song, or take a quick walk periodically. Movement improves your mood and concentration, so don’t look at it as “wasted” time.
- Drink plenty of water: We can all benefit from drinking more water, and refills let you sneak in a little walk. Bonus: more bathroom breaks add to your step count.
- Find a buddy: Combine bonding and moving with motivating your coworkers, kids, partner, friend, or dog to get up and move with you.
- Don’t take the convenient option: Park further away, take the stairs, and get off public transportation early. Small changes in travel or errands add up to lots of extra steps.
- Use a pedometer or fitness app: Pick how many steps you want to reach every day and challenge yourself to keep meeting that goal.
- Use cleaning or DIY improvements as a reason to move: Boost your activity while you brighten your space or pursue an at-home project.
- Tackle yard work: Many people hire others to mow, do garden clean-ups, or remove leaves or snow, but yard chores are great exercise, and getting fresh air and sunshine is another mood booster.
- Use downtime for movement: Instead of sitting through commercial breaks, waiting for dinner to cook, or sitting during phone conversations, try walking in place or doing stretches or pushups.
- Spread your workout through the day: Jot down a list of exercises; planks, pushups, sit-ups, wall sits, squats, etc., and do a set whenever you take a break. Consistency adds up to significant benefits for your body.
- Try standing workstations: These desks allow you to alternate between sitting and standing, plus you can sneak in stretches, calf raises, and leg lifts to increase your movement as you work.
- Walk every day: Commit to walking every day, whether it’s on your commute, during your lunch break, or after dinner.
- Find a workout you love or try something new: Try dance lessons, paddleboarding, hiking, tennis, or aerial fitness classes; exercise doesn’t have to be boring. Learning new skills helps your body and your brain.
- Be mindful of your meals: Fresh foods fuel your body and give you energy. Heavy meals can leave you sleepy and make you less productive for the rest of the day — leaving you wanting to sit more and more.
- Be aware of the time you spend seated: Whether working or scrolling through social media, time flies. Before you know it, you’ve been sitting too long. Check out inactivity reminder apps for your phone and computer, or set up your smartwatch with activity inactivity reminders.
How a Chiropractor Can Help
Chiropractors diagnose and treat health problems related to the body’s muscular, nervous, and skeletal systems, focusing primarily on the spine. Treatment centers on the art of manual adjustment without using medication or surgery. A sedentary lifestyle can force your spine out of alignment, causing discomfort. Chiropractic treatment realigns your spine, reduces pressure and pain, and increases overall wellbeing.
Dr. Reinhardt gets to know you. His reputation as the best chiropractor in Denver is earned from the time he takes to talk with you, assess your lifestyle, rule out serious health conditions, and answer your questions. He will form a plan to improve your health and bring a renewed vibrancy to daily life. By assessing your spine and joint health, he can advise you on simple ways to manage work and healthy living, such as:
- Daily stretches
- Not sitting for longer than 30 minutes without a break
- Walking or biking to work if you can, or making other tweaks to your commute
- Getting regular exercise when you aren’t at work
- Trying different options for sitting at your desk, like an exercise ball or wobble stool
- Maintaining proper posture while sitting
Proper Sitting Posture
Slumping, crossing your legs, leaving your feet unsupported, craning your neck, and sitting too long in one position are all going to overwork your muscles, ligaments, and tendons — leaving you in varying degrees of pain. Correct posture reduces strain on your body, eases wear and tear, and lets you remain active as you get older.
Good posture always involves proper spine alignment supported by corresponding muscles, so when you sit in a way that puts strain on your muscles, it overworks your spine. Always sit up with your back straight, shoulders squared, and feet supported. Keep these tips in mind for excellent posture:
- Use an ergonomic chair for back support. If you don’t have one, use a rolled towel at the small of your back. Ergonomic seat cushions are another option for pressure relief.
- Adjust your chair height. Your feet should be flat on the floor with knees bent at a 90-degree angle while seated.
- Uncross your legs and ankles. You want to keep your blood moving without straining your muscles.
- Your computer monitor should be about an arm’s length away, and your gaze should hit around two inches below the top of the monitor. Use a box, a monitor stand, or a monitor mount to find your perfect position.
- Your wrists should rest on your desk as you type, so place your keyboard 4 to 6 inches in. If you are still uncomfortable, wrist pads may help. Keep your mouse positioned in easy reach.
- Use a speakerphone, headset, or Bluetooth earbuds to help keep your neck aligned.
Denver’s Best Chiropractic Care
Dr. Reinhardt has treated numerous individuals in the Denver, CO area who have experienced pain and health concerns stemming from too much sitting. If you feel that you are sitting too much or have posture issues related to a desk job, Dr. Reinhardt and our team encourage you to get in touch to receive a full assessment of your health. Contact us today to help protect your physical and emotional health moving forward.
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