You may have already suspected that sitting at a desk for too long can be hazardous to your body and your health, but did you know just how much of an impact this has? Research finds that if you decrease the amount of time spent sitting during the day it can increase your chances of living a healthier lifestyle.
So, what exactly are the dangers of sitting down all day? According to researchers, sitting for prolonged periods of time has been linked to concerns with obesity, increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist, and heightened cholesterol.
That said, a lot of us have little choice in the matter and are stuck with a sedentary lifestyle at work or school. As such, here are some tricks you can use to improve your body and back health if you must sit for prolonged periods every day.
Improve your posture
Sitting for long periods in the day can lead to the wasting away of muscles and stiffness of your shoulders, neck and back. This is caused by your hip flexor muscles to shorten which can lead to problems with joints in your hips. Sitting for long periods can also cause problems with your back and spine health in general, especially if you consistently sit with poor posture or don’t use a chair with lumbar support.
To improve posture, the first thing that you can do is to place your feet on the floor, or a foot rest if they don’t reach the floor. Foot position is important and avoiding crossing your knees or ankles can be helpful. To ensure your back and legs are in the correct position, maintain a small gap between the knees and the chair and relax your shoulders. You can keep your back up against the chair and place a cushion if there are places where the back does not comfortably meet the chair (normally in the lower back region).
It’s important to avoid slumping over to the front or on either of your sides and to not maintain crossed arms and legs.
Get regular exercise
Sitting for long periods can lead to weakening of muscles in the legs and waist. These muscles are essential in supporting you and if they are weak it becomes easier to succumb to injury. To avoid this happening, it’s important to take regular breaks from sitting. For every hour of sitting, ten minutes of standing and walking should be done. Ways to improve your exercise time during the day can include scheduling walking meetings during your work day, standing or walking while taking phone calls, eating lunch away from your desk and taking walks throughout the day if possible. Latest research suggests that people should get 60-75 minutes of moderate intensity exercise per day to combat the dangers of excessive sitting.
Take care of your mental health
Although the links between mental health and sitting for prolonged periods are not yet completely understood, we do know that the risk of anxiety and depression is higher in people that sit more. This may be attributed to the fact that people who spend a lot of time sitting are missing out on physical activity which can affect levels of stress and contentment. It has also been found that sitting for long periods of time can affect the way the brain stores memories. According to studies done by researchers from UCLA, the more time people spent sitting, the easier it was to predict the weakening or thinning of the memory focused part of the brain.
Using a computer at your desk
When using a computer, take time to adjust your workstation until you feel you are sitting comfortably and that you are at a safe distance from the monitor of your computer. Take regular breaks by stretching your arms, hands and wrists. Eye strain can also be prevented by periodically looking away from the screen to focus on distant objects and rolling the eyes clockwise and counter-clockwise.
Ergonomic equipment can be used to improve your posture and position. Some equipment that you can consider purchasing include footrests, vertical style mice, monitor raisers, ergonomic chairs and standing desks.
What else can be done to prevent damaging your health?
If you are still worried about sitting for too long, here are some other ways you can reduce sitting time during the day.
- Rotate standing and sitting tasks throughout the day
- Stand to do regular tasks like checking your text messages, emails and taking phone calls
- Offer your seat to others on public transport
- Visit your physiotherapist for regular check ups and to catch any harm before it becomes an injury
- Plan breaks on long car trips
- Leave the car at home occasionally and opt for walking or cycling