I am being dramatic of course, but recent research shows that sitting is the new smoking and chronic sitting has a mortality rate similar to smoking. All-cause mortality is increased by 50 percent with excessive sitting, which is basically everyone who has a desk job. Sitting for more than eight hours a day is associated with a 90 percent increased risk of type 2 diabetes, a 50 percent increased risk of many kinds of cancer, and an even greater risk of death by cardiovascular disease (regardless of overall physical activity level).
That's not the only problem with sitting. I see young people in my practice who are now very limited in ability to exercise because they have chronic immobility and pain caused by sitting. These limitations reduce time in physical activity and there begins a vicious cycle.
I have been there. I was in excellent physical shape when I took a full-time office job for 2 years in my late 20s. I developed early carpal tunnel, tendonitis, thoracic outlet syndrome, low back pain, SI joint dysfunction, a chronic hip injury and overall decreased fitness, flexibility and immune strength, not to mention a bit of a kyphosis and lordosis in my posture.
Though modern society demands we sit and we obligue gladly, there are few things more important for your health and reducing pain than moving. In earlier human societies, movement was essential for life, now it is possible to get all our needs met with very little movement. Our bodies were designed to move: to use food as fuel not as storage, to pump blood and oxygen to our brain and other organs, to move lymph fluid (the water of our immune system that doesn't move if we don't), and t0 keep our bodies agile. If you have a more moblie job, even if it's hard on your body, you will likely be better off in the long run than someone with a pure desk job.
If you want to feel better, it's not going to be easy. Take an inventory of your day. How much time do you spend sitting at work, watching TV or internet, driving?
And now, how could you integrate more movement?
- Get a dog, they make you walk them.
- Download an app or buy a wrist pedometer and make it a challenge to get so many steps in per day.
- Download an app to make you stop using the computer at regular intervals and get up and move, stretch, walk.
- Stand or roll on a ball or sit on a wobbly chair or stool while working.
- Cook your own meals, by hand. If you go out to eat, walk or bike there.
- Do your own cleaning.
- Take showers instead of baths. Put on some music and try dancing in the shower.
- Walk to your errands.
- Bike to work.
- Find a regular exercise that you LIKE to do and make that a high priority and put it on your calendar as busy, blocked time.
- Substitute sedentary hobbies and entertainment for active ones, like ultimate frisbee, dance, golf or gardening.
- Have walking dates with friends and family.
- Have walking meetings at work.
- Move to a second floor apartment or higher.
- Take the stairs, not escalators or elevators.
- Limit TV time to specific hours, get up during breaks and try doing exercise while watching tv - trampoline, treadmill, stationary cycle or do yoga, pilates, weights, sit ups and push ups and so on.
- Reduce your work hours or find a more active job, where you get up and move even a little on a regular basis.
This sounds excessive, I know, but the world is now being designed for your demise. At the top of your head needs to be "How can I move more today?" just like you may always be thinking about food, shopping, love, money or sex.
If you do, you will likely not only live longer, but also have a much better quality of life, be happier (yes, exercise improves mood), and be smarter. Your life depends on it. So get moving!