Is Sitting the New Smoking Disease?

August 17, 2015

   Think about how much time you spend behind the steering wheel, slumped over a keyboard or on a couch or chair watching television. Did you know that all of these increase your risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, back pain and depression? Not to mention what it does to your waistline. 

   Current research shows that sitting more that three hours a day can cut two years off your life expectancy even with regular exercise. TV watching for more than two hours a day can shorten your life expectancy by 1.4 years and one hour of TV watching for anyone over 25 years old is as lethal as lighting up one cigarette according to The British Journal of Sports Medicine referring to a study conducted by the Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute in 2012.

What Happens to Your Body When You Sit?

   1. Prolonged sitting causes changes in your body. One change is the overproduction of insulin by your pancreas. Cells that aren’t moving don’t respond as well to the effects of insulin, so your body makes more. These changes are noticed after one day of prolonged sitting and this can lead to diabetes.

   2. It also increases your risk for colon, breast and endometrial cancers. The theory is that excess insulin encourages cell growth. Regular movement, like exercise, boosts natural antioxidants that kill cell-damaging free radicals.

   3. Sitting decreases blood flow causing poor circulation to your lower legs putting you at greater risk for blood clots called deep vein thrombosis or DVT.             

   4. When we sit, we don't contract our abs and that fosters loose or weak abdominals. When we stand our abs hold us up. When seated, the muscles that make up our hip flexors and hamstrings are both in a shortened position. These muscles attach to the vertebrae in the lower lumbar region of the spine. Over time, these muscles will become tight and short creating a tug-of-war type of strain on the lower back. 

   5. Foggy brains. Sitting for long periods slows circulation to the brain. But when we move it pumps blood to the brain, keeping our heads clear and energized. 

   6.  By craning your neck forward all day and slouching over a keyboard we put a lot of strain on our upper bodies this creates tight neck and shoulder muscles.

Here are some great reasons to swap out the rolling office chair or couch for a stability ball:

  • Sitting on a stability ball promotes “active sitting” as you are in a more unstable environment. Your deep core stabilizer muscles (the muscles around your spine that allow you to sit up straight) get more activation.
  • There is no slouching or lounging since the ‘no back’ feature of a stability ball requires you to sit up straight. This allows you to multi-task at your workstation as you type and improve your posture at the same time.
  • Having a stability ball around will likely encourage you to add playtime back into your day. Turn your coffee break into an "exercise" break by using the stability ball to perform exercises such as ball squats, crunches and lunges. You will burn some extra calories and increase your oxygen exchange which will help you feel refreshed.
  •  Get up periodically for the 7-8 hours that you are at work each day giving your legs and back a chance to stretch out.
  •  You can stretch your hamstrings, chest, shoulders, and lots of other muscle groups while on  your stability ball too.