There’s a pretty good chance that wherever you’re reading this article right now — at your office desk, at home in the study, even on the couch — you’re sitting down. Many of us are stationary for extended periods in our jobs, and the health effects of sitting for so long can actually be pretty detrimental.
According to The Washington Post, the list of health hazards from prolonged sitting includes several of today’s major chronic diseases, along with a number of just plain painful or irritating effects. Check out the list below, and see if any of these surprise you:
- high blood pressure
- elevated cholesterol
- increased chance of heart disease (the most sedentary people are more than twice as likely to have heart disease than the least sedentary)
- decreased insulin response, which can lead to diabetes
- greater risk for cancer (colon, breast and endometrial)
- a condition called hyperlordosis, or swayback, which is an unnatural arch in the spine resulting from a tight back and weak abs
- decreased hip mobility (a concern especially as we age)
- softened glute muscles, which can hurt your balance and stride
- reduced blood circulation, which can cause swollen ankles, varicose veins and deep vein thrombosis (DVT)
- weakened bones, which can increase risk of osteoporosis
- slowed brain function
- strained neck, shoulder and back
- tight, inflexible spine
- increased risk of lumbar disk damage
Yikes! Are you scared yet? The list certainly isn’t encouraging.
In short, our bodies were designed for movement, and sitting in one place for 6, 8, 10+ hours puts an unusual strain on all of the muscles, bones and internal systems that aren’t being put to use. After all, use it or lose it, right?
Thankfully, if we take small breaks from sitting to exercise and stretch — even if we stay right at our desks to do it! — we can combat these harmful effects.
WebMD suggests a number of moves and stretches for the workplace. Here are a few that we like, which you can do without needing to take more than a minute or two away from your work:
- Run in place for 60 seconds (kick your knees up to really feel it!)
- Pop into a bathroom or a conference room and shadowbox for 60 seconds
- Do a few one-legged squats in between office tasks (Sound easy? It isn’t.)
- Sit up straight, then pull your shoulders down and back as if trying to get your shoulderblades to touch; hold for a few seconds, then relax and repeat
- Pretend that you’re jumping rope, and bounce back and forth on those feet!
- Sit up tall in your chair and raise your hands over your head, reaching for the sky; hold 10 seconds, then stretch one hand up higher than the other. Hold, relax, and repeat with the other side
Greatist has also made a really fabulous list of 33 exercises you can do at work — it’s absolutely worth giving a read through.
Whatever you do, the takeaway is clear: MOVE MORE during your workday, and live better!