Do you have a job that requires you to do more sitting than most people or a mate that sits in their chair and watches back-to-back episodes of a series for hours? Have you started noticing quirky pains and aches or a huge difference in your posture from sitting for hours? Since you started working on a computer all day, have you noticed spasms in areas or aches in your arms, back, or neck? A sedentary lifestyle can bring on many health problems, inside and out. The old term, “motion is lotion” is one we need to take to heart.
Sitting for hours on end can lead to the following health problems:
- Fatty liver disease.
- Blood clots.
- Heart disease.
- Memory and speech problems.
“When you’re sitting, you’re burning only half the calories you would standing or walking lightly,” says David A. Alter, MD, Ph.D., chair of cardiovascular and metabolic research at the UHN-Toronto Rehabilitation Institute.
But even if you’re trim, a sedentary lifestyle may still wreak havoc on your health. That’s because “lack of movement affects how we burn fat and metabolize sugar and the body’s response to insulin,” says Dr. Alter. Your cholesterol may also go up, along with markers of inflammation and troponins (a protein produced by cardiac muscle cells when they’re hurt or dying). Such physiological changes can nearly double your odds of diabetes and increase your risk of cardiovascular disease by 14 percent.
In a small study last year, researchers took a group of healthy young adults who regularly clocked at least 10,000 steps a day and had them cut back to 1,500 steps. Participants still went to work and took care of their families, says Dan Cuthbertson, Ph.D., of the University of Liverpool’s Institute of Ageing and Chronic Disease.
It was no surprise that within two weeks
- Subjects increased total body fat, particularly around their middles.
- Lost muscle mass.
- The group also experienced a decrease in insulin sensitivity.
- An increase in both fat accumulated in the liver and triglycerides.
Just four hours of sitting can compress a key disc in your lower back, says Gregory Billy, MD, associate professor of orthopedics and rehabilitation at Penn State University. Poor posture can also lead to disc problems in your neck.
A few adjustments to your environment will also help, so move the computer closer to your chair and elevate it so your shoulders and spine aren’t curling forward. In the car, adjust your seat height so that your knees are slightly bent and lower than your hips. A pillow or lumbar support can help thwart slouching and keep your lumbar spine slightly arched, says Dr. Pierce-Talsma.
Be sure and interrupt chair time with stretches of 60 to 90 minutes, says Keith Diaz, Ph.D.,the study’s lead author and an assistant professor of behavioral medicine at Columbia University. “It’s simply not enough to be active or move at one specific time of the day,” says Diaz. “We need to be mindful of moving frequently throughout the day in addition to exercising.”
Ref. Prevention, MSN/lifestyle
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