As I write this post I am standing. I have resolved to only stand when I am researching and writing for this blog since I spend so much time on it. In the back of my mind I always knew that sitting for too long was bad but I never really knew the extent of it’s effects.
I had a high school groundskeeper who spent his day walking, no wait, power walking. He was always in a hurry. The only time we ever saw him still was when he was screwing in a light bulb or drilling holes for something. Other than that he was constantly on the move. I am almost certain he was a sleep walker too. We made jokes about it a lot but the guy was in great shape! As human beings we are designed for movement. I’m not talking about getting up to go to the fridge or walking from your car to your office kind of movement. I am not even talking about a 30 minute run on the treadmill. I’m talking about dynamic, functional movement throughout the day. Sitting for long periods just isn’t what our bodies are designed for.
In actual fact, being still, is not what our bodies are designed for. According to Katy Bowman, we need to be moving in a way that is nutritious. In a way that feeds our cells and activates muscles that are designed to be activated throughout the day. When we go a whole day being mostly immobile, we are not allowing our cells and muscles to function optimally. They will therefore stop performing how they are meant to.
How much time do we actually spend immobile?
So many of us spend a lot of our day sedentary. Even if you don’t have an office job, you’re bound to spend a fair amount of time immobile. During transportation to and from work, while you work, while you watch tv, eat dinner, go for coffee etc. I work at a kindergarten as a curriculum coordinator and so spend a lot of my time researching and sending and replying to emails. I am lucky that I only work part-time. But for the remainder of my day I am back on my computer researching and writing for my blog. I workout for at least 30 minutes everyday but I know that this hardly makes up for how much of the time I am sedentary. I decided to add up how much time on average I personally spend sitting during a regular work week (prior to this post of course). Here is a break down:
30 minutes driving to work
2 hours at my computer for work
30 minutes driving back home
30 minutes eating lunch
2 hours working on my computer for my blog
30 minutes eating dinner
2 hours watching tv after dinner
Grand Total: 8 hours
That is shocking!! 8 out of 16 awake hours are spent sitting. That is 50% of my day!! So after I realized this, I decided to make some changes but not without some research to really drive this home. Here is what I found:
Sitting (or being sedentary) for long periods:
- Slows your metabolism therefore negatively impacting your bodies ability to regulate blood sugar levels and slows the break down of fat.
- Slows blood circulation in the legs which puts you at a higher risk of getting varicose veins.
- Limits brain functioning because the muscles aren’t pumping blood and oxygen as effectively.
- Weakens your stomach muscles resulting in a flabbier mid-section.
- Can cause back and neck pain from holding your neck forward while on the computer. Sitting also puts pressure on the spine more so than standing does.
- Results in sluggish digestion and can cause constipation, bloating, cramping etc.
There is more where that came from but I didn’t want to overwhelm you lovely people who are doing the best you can right? Well it’s time to do better by spending more time on your feet and more time moving around! The short-term effects of being immobile are bad enough but let’s take a look at what it does long-term.
What could long periods of sitting lead to in the long run?
- Increases your risk of herniated lumbar disks in your spine.
- Puts you at a greater risk of colon, breast and endometrial cancer.
- Sluggish blood flow leads to fatty acids clogging the heart which can result in heart disease.
- Your pancreas produces increased amounts of insulin which may lead to diabetes.
- Muscle degeneration occurs from inactivity and results in hip problems later on.
The good thing is that there are solutions to this problem. Take matters into your own hands and honor your body by providing it with more opportunities for movement. Here are some easy ways to get in more activity in your day.
Simple solutions to this problem:
- Break up sitting time by standing, stretching and walking even if it’s just for a couple minutes. This will engage those muscles that are inactive while sitting.
- Take the stairs instead of elevators to get the blood circulating in your legs.
- Take a walk while on a coffee break.
- Place your lap top on a box or use a standing desk to work at.
- Walk to the store or to work if it’s possible instead of taking a car.
- Set a reminder every 30 minutes on your phone to get up and walk.
Ok so I can’t stand while I’m driving to work and I do think sitting and eating is good but for everything else, standing and moving is possible. I now prop my lap top on a box at work and stand the whole time, staying attentive to my posture. I also break this time up with short walks every 20-30 minutes or so. And in my kitchen I have a breakfast bar that has been transformed into my blog space. I make sure to move my body while I’m standing, I shift my weight, balance on one foot and I even squat intermittently. All of these movements throughout the day will add up, nourish your body’s need for activity and protect you from detrimental effects in the future.
So stand up and move!