Are you sitting too long?
The answer is very likely “Yes”.
I recently did a talk to a group of about 50 people. When I asked how many people sat at their desks for more than two hours, nearly everyone put their hand up. Almost half raise their hands for more than three hours at a time.
The number of people who work in sedentary jobs has increased significantly over the years. Nearly 80% of working Americans are in jobs that require only light or sedentary work. That means that people are sitting way too much. Not only are people sitting for a majority of their eight hour workday, but they then have to sit to commute, sit to eat and most sit for a few hours at night to “relax”. Consequently, there has been a positive correlation between lack of activity and the increase in obesity rates. Currently, one in three Americans is labeled as obese. Eighty percent of Americans do not meet the recommended physical activity levels for aerobic and strength training. As a result, there are higher levels of type 2 diabetes and hypertension in America.
It is clear that this trend of sitting at work is bad for your health. In fact, the Mayo Clinic has declared that sitting for long periods increases risks of cardiovascular disease and cancer.
What are the effects of long-term sitting on your muscles and joints?
The health concerns with inactivity are quite clear and alarming, but what effects does sitting have on your muscles and joints? Sitting for long periods of time (1-3 hours) causes postural fatigue. Postural fatigue causes our bodies to slouch forward. Your shoulders and back round out, and your head comes forward. This change in posture puts a huge increase in the amount of strain on the muscles of the neck and back. In turn, you have increase stress on your spine. With increase stress on the spine, there is risk of developing disc issues and arthritic changes.
Postural habits make all the difference
Poor posture habits while sitting can lead to poor posture even when you are not sitting at your desk. Most people will develop poor posture with all of their activities. As a result, they become more susceptible to injury. Changes in posture causes weakness and tightness of the muscles in your neck, shoulders and back. Over time, this will lead you to have less energy, decrease work productivity and varying degrees of pain.
Many people who work at a desk all day will over-extend their necks to look at the compute monitor. Maintaining an extended neck position causes pressure on the discs of the neck and may eventually cause disc herniation. Disc herniation can be quite painful and lead to weakness and numbness of the extremities. The same can be said for the lower back. Sitting in a slumped posture puts increase pressure on the discs of the lumbar spine, which can lead to herniation and pain. Not to mention that sitting will also cause weakness of the glute and lower back muscles resulting in decrease strength and stability of the spine.
What can you do?
It is clear that sitting for long periods of time has numerous health issues. From increased risk of heart issues to overuse injuries to the neck and back. How do you prevent these issues from occurring? You can’t just quit your job. The answer is simple: you have to move your body. Movement is the best way to not only prevent stiffness and weakness, but also decrease pain. Moving your body can also decrease the chance that you will develop painful neck and back injuries.
Movement does not necessarily mean that you have to go out and join a gym. Although, regular exercise is highly recommended for decreasing heart disease, obesity and poor health. Taking breaks to walk around your office every 30 minutes can drastically minimize your chances of developing poor posture and injuries associated with poor posture. Doing exercises to improve flexibility and strength while at work will help to prevent injury as well.
Movement and proper posture awareness are critical for those who have sedentary jobs. Energy will improve, productivity increases and there is decrease chance of developing health issues and injury.