How Sitting is the New Smoking
How Sitting is the New Smoking
Do you spend eight or nine hours a day sitting and not getting up to move, stretch and flex your body? Then did you know you are slowly killing yourself? Yes, sitting is the new smoking and millions of people are doing it, so you are not alone. Now is the time to think about how you can revolutionise the way you work, relax and keep moving, to avoid chronic neck and shoulder problems and the onset of modern diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, certain types of cancer and heart disease. Many of these critical health issues are avoidable, and triggered by our sedentary, 21st century lifestyles. As human beings, we are not designed to live a life of inertia. It’s time to think like an athlete and move and stay active both at work and play.
The Impact of Sitting Down On Your Health
The majority of us sit for more than 9 hours every day, be that whilst we are working, travelling, eating and even when we are socialising with friends and family. This is more than we spend sleeping, which is usually 7 hrs. Sitting is so prevalent we don’t even question how much we are doing it and because everyone else around us is doing it we don’t question its impact on our health and wellbeing. Take a moment, pause: add up the hours you spend sat on your butt today or yesterday and the day before that. Don’t forget the sitting when you travelled to and from work, or the collapsing on the sofa once you get home. It all adds up.
The Problem with Sitting Too Much
So what? I hear you cry. Is it really that bad? Well apart from the obvious – sore shoulders, neck and back and an increase in obesity. Sitting leads to a whole host of musculoskeletal problems and even more seriously it is directly linked to a number of diseases. The sore shoulders, back and neck SLOWLY lead to strained joints, ligaments and muscles which in turn can lead to permanent movement imbalances and result in an inflexible spine that is more susceptible to damage during mundane activities – bending over, putting on socks etc… as well as leading to an increased risk of degenerative disc disease. If that is not enough to make you jump up and start moving, sitting has been shown to have direct links to increased risks of more chronic diseases such as high blood pressure, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer (specifically breast and colon cancer) and elevated cholesterol. Studies have also shown a link to kidney disease, poor circulation and soft bones. The bottom line is that those of us sitting for more than 11 cumulative hours a day have a 40% higher risk of dying within three years.
An Hour at the Gym is not Enough
Even worse you are not protected by simply going to the gym for an hour every day, yes it means you face lower risks of the above health conditions, but it doesn’t completely negate the risks associated with sitting for long periods of time. A bit like eating sugar every day but brushing twice a day doesn’t prevent cavities/tooth decay. When we sit for more of the day than we move in it we program our central nervous system and brain to “slow down”. To operate at a level of balance that is below ideal.
To understand this concept you first need to know that everything your body does is controlled by your central nervous system, secondly we (our nervous system) are highly influenced by our environments. And finally your body always wants to be in balance or homeostasis – this means it is all about averages and what goes in directly effects what comes out. Your nervous system needs GOOD input to produce GOOD output.
Everything Matters from How Much You Move to the Air You Breathe
How your body moves and how frequently it moves, what and how often you eat, how well do you breathe, what is the air quality like, how do you think or deal with stress? All these have a direct impact on how your body functions: what your blood pressure is, your heart rate is, your mood, your cholesterol levels, your hormone levels i.e. poor motion, poor diet, poor emotion results in poor health.
Where do we start to undo some of the negative effects of so much sitting? Well that is easier than you think; the health of your spine has a big impact on the rest of your body – no wonder, as it is the highway between your central nervous system and your environment. As we improve spinal health we also improve overall health. A healthy spine is a strong yet mobile spine – each vertebrae (and each joint) needs to move through its full range of motion throughout the day, everyday. More movement and less sitting, good nutrition and mindfulness (brain gym) brings the rest of the body back towards its optimal homeostatic balance. If you don’t move a joint through its full range of motion everyday and you keep stressing the joint with poor movement/posture scar tissue is laid down in increasing density, this restricts the joints ability to move and function. It is important to note that due to this joints don’t spontaneously get better they tend to get worse and therefore so do all the things attached to them. It is therefore important to help the body break this cycle- as chiropractors we will asses the joints that aren’t moving correctly and help them function correctly through adjusting, dry needling or massage.
5 Tips to Help You Move More
Move during your commute- park your car further away from your building, get off a stop early, cycle to work and always take the long route. You will hopefully end up moving more than sitting each day.
Walking and talking: when on the phone, social activities, or instigate a walking meeting. Get up from your desk as much as possible – it actually allows your brain to concentrate better so you should end up being more productive!
Drink more water – one, you have to go and get the water and two you will then have to get up to go to the loo more often. There is also the added benefit of staying hydrated.
Get a lunch time exercise group at work- find a group of people at work who are willing to join you in being active- whether it’s a walking club, a yoga class or even a high intensity interval training class having other people involved will help keep you motivated to keep moving.
Editor’s Tip – Apple have an app you can use to give a little reminder to get up and move every twenty minutes or so at work. You could also buy a sit stand desk or simply adapt your own desk so you can alternate between sitting and standing at work – we can tell you it makes a big difference to creativity and you don’t develop that awful feeling of brain fog at the end of the day! www.apple.com
Get a pedometer- being able to see how many steps you’ve taken helps give you a goal to work for. You should be aiming for 10000 steps a day. It will help remind you that you need to move more!
MOVE WELL, EAT WELL, THINK WELL
Chiropractic is a healthcare profession that looks at how well your body is moving/coping with the stresses of life. We do this by addressing the whole person not just the bit that hurts; we follow a philosophy of move well, eat well, and think well. As movement specialists, with a focus on the spine Chiropractors look at getting your body both mobile and strong by locating and correcting dysfunctional joint movement patterns. We address this with adjustments, exercises, dry needling and nutritional advice. You will undoubtedly need to see a Chiropractor at numerous points in your life as regular correction helps your body become more robust and better at dealing with the day-to-day stresses of a fast paced life-style.
Joanna Lowry-Corry has a BSc (Neuroscience), MChiro, CCEP, LC – one of London’s leading Chiropractors and a highly regarded neuro-muscular skeletal expect. She practices at The London Wellness Centre, with branches in Canary Wharf and London Bridge. For More information – www.thisislondonwellness.com