Here’s some bad news you should not take sitting down: sitting for long hours every day is bad for your health. Sitting at work is bad for you and sitting after work will make it even worse. Most experts say that too much sitting is the new smoking, except that your chair will not give you bad breath, throat cancer or nicotine withdrawal.
Many studies have been published in the last few years proving that sitting too much everyday will slowly kill you. And you know that we spend half of our life sitting down. If you work in an office, not sitting down is hard to do. You might also laze around the house on your days off. One study shows that people are spending more time sitting rather than walking or standing on work days as compared to weekends or leisure days.
It can be difficult to get an accurate assessment of what sitting down does to people because of different physique and health conditions. The effects will also vary with a person’s diet and lifestyle. So let’s take a look at an estimated timeline of the effects of too much sitting:
1. Right After Sitting
Right after you sit down, your muscle’s electrical activities will slow down and your calorie-burning rate drops to one calorie/minute; that’s about a third of the burn rate when walking. Let’s say you sit down for a full 24 hours; you will experience a 40% reduction in glucose and an uptake in insulin which causes type 2 diabetes.
2. Sitting 2 Weeks For More Than 6 Hours/Day
If you have changed to a sedentary lifestyle within 5 days, your body fatty molecules (plasma triglycerides), LDL cholesterol and insulin resistance will go up. It means that your muscles are not taking in the needed fat and your blood sugar levels will rise which will make you gain weight. After 14 days, your muscles start to atrophy and your oxygen consumption will go down. This will make you lose your breath whenever you climb the stairs or run or do any cardiovascular activities.
3. Sitting One Year For More Than 6 Hours/Day
If this behaviour continues, after one year you will experience weight gain and high levels of cholesterol. You can also lose up to 1% of bone mass every year by sitting over 6 hours a day.
4. Sitting 10-20 Years For More Than 6 Hours/Day
Sitting for 6 hours every day for 10-20 years can take away 7 years of your life. It increases your risk of dying of heart disease by 64% and the risk of breast and prostate cancer by 30%.
What You Can Do To Counter The Effects Of Too Much Sitting
According to the research published in the British Journal Of Sports Medicine, reducing your time sitting can increase the length of your telomeres. Telomeres are the protective caps that are made of protein and DNA located at the end of chromosomes. Telomeres also stop damage during cell division. It affects how long the cells live while shorter telomeres are linked to age-related diseases like cancer, diabetes, heart disease, stroke and obesity.
9 Effective Exercises To Reverse The Effects Of Sitting
You’ve surely experienced moments when you get up from sitting and your butt feels numb, your lower back aches and your hips feel tight. When you try to walk, you might have to lean forward at the waist. With all of the effects mentioned earlier, excessive sitting can also leave your legs and hips tight and your glutes inactive. Some fitness experts also argue that too much sitting causes the muscles in the hip area to become short and stay shorter even if you stand up. Although there is no scientific basis for their argument, it is completely plausible.
Having a good range of motion in your hip an back area helps prevent injuries when you do physical activities or household chores. Below are some simple exercises and stretches as suggested by Art Of Maniliness that will undo the damage of too much sitting and lower the risk of having chronic diseases. As many would say, prevention is the best medicine.
1. Sit Less And Move More
One of the best things you can do for your hips, back and overall health is to sit less and move more during the day. If you’re in the office and your boss will allow it, try using your desk as a tool to stretch. Also remember that just like sitting, standing should be done in moderation. If the desk is not an option, try taking 5 minute breaks from sitting every 30 or 45 minutes. Stand up, stretch as if you just got out of bed or walk around a bit. Shake your legs, your arms and your neck. Even if you have a standing desk, taking a break once in a while will help.
2. Stretch Your Hips
These stretches are designed to loosen the hips. Move your hips from side to side slowly, pushing with your hands to feel the stretch. If it feels really tight, you have to take it easy to prevent any injury or worsening the issue.
3. Leg Swings
This is a good warm up before you do any other workout. It loosens the hips, the glutes and the hamstrings. Hold on to something stable for balance and begin with forward leg swings. Start with your right leg backwards and forwards as high as you can and as comfortably as you can. Do 3 sets of 20 swings for each leg depending on how easy it feels. Do side-leg swings after resting for 5 minutes.
4. The Grok Squat
This squat is similar to a baseball catcher’s stance. You just simply squat until your ankles touch your butt. Keep your heels firmly on the ground and your back as straight as possible. Hold the position for 1 minute. You will feel your quads, hamstrings, achilles, lower back and groin stretching gently. If you’re really stiff as a dead man, it may take a few tries or days of practice before you do a full squat. Do three sets per minute and your back and hips will thank you.
5. The Table Pigoen Pose
Anyone doing yoga will be familiar with this pose. You can start by placing your leg on a tabletop or desk with the knee bent to a 90 degree position. Place one hand on the table and one hand on your foot for support. Lean forward for 1 ½ minutes and then lean left to the 10 o’clock position and hold for 1 ½ minutes. after that, lean right to the 2 o’clock position and hold for the same time. Repeat on your other leg. If you have knee issues, you can rotate your body so that your ankles hangs off the table. Place a pillow under your knee and do the same steps.
6. Couch Stretching
This one is a very effective stretch. Some people prefer to do it using their wall, but it can be hard if you’re stiff as a log. Let’s do the easy way first by using a couch. Place the knee of the leg you want to stretching against the backrest of the sofa and then place the other leg on the floor. Slowly raise your body in a straight spine position to stretch it. As you slowly raise your torso, squeeze your abs and butt and hold this position for 4 minutes. Switch to the other leg and repeat.
7. Barbell Bridges
Go on all fours with your knees bent and the top side of your feet flat on the floor. Use a padded barbell and put it across your hips. Grab it using an overhand grip about a shoulder-width apart. Squeeze your glutes while you raise your waist until the hips are lined with your body. Go back to the starting position and do 3 sets of 10.
8. The Clamshell
Lay on your side with the hips and knees positioned at a 45 degree angle. Keep your feet together and then raise your upper knee as high as you can without moving your pelvis. Have your lower leg stay flat on the floor. Do 20 reps for each leg at least twice a week.
9. The Fire Hydrant
This may seem weird, and you may look like a dog doing his business on a fire hydrant, but it’s effective. Just get down on your knees and hands flat on the floor. Slowly raise one leg out from under you towards the side, as high as you can while keeping it bent. While doing this, maintain a neutral spine position. Do 3 sets of 15 for each leg twice a week. If you want to further challenge yourself, extend your leg straight out after lifting it for added glute activation.
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