In The Media > More reasons to stand up for your health

28 Jun 2012

Study after study has shown not only that being inactive is bad for your fitness but also that sitting for long periods each day may shorten your lifespan.

In fact sitting for more than six hours a day can make you up to 40 per cent likelier to die within 15 years than someone who sits less than three hours a day.

Basically, those who sit for longer periods of time aren't getting the consistent and continual physical activity needed to maintain a healthy body.

The facts about the effects of sitting for long periods are confronting in the modern world, which seems designed to encourage or even force workers and students to sit.

The hard truth is:

People with jobs that require sitting tend to have twice the rate of cardiovascular disease of people who mostly stand on the job.

After two hours of sitting, good cholesterol drops 20 per cent.

A study published in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise showed that men who spent more than 23 hours a week watching television and sitting in their cars (as passengers or as drivers) had a 64 per cent greater chance of dying from heart disease than those who sat for 11 hours a week or less.

As soon as you sit down, electrical activity in the leg muscles shuts off and calorie burning drops to one a minute.

If you have a desk job or spend a lot of time at the computer, proper chair height, distance from your desk, arm and wrist rests and degree of bend of the arms and legs are important. Sitting with the feet or lower legs under your chair for example, amounts to a contraction of the back of the thigh (hamstrings). Repeated shortening of these muscles results in greater tightness and lack of flexibility, which in turn can create problems with the lower back.

The muscles that are responsible for lifting the legs, as with walking or climbing stairs, are called hip flexors. With excessive sitting, these muscles react in the same way as the hamstrings, shorter and tighter. Postural changes can occur over time related to leaning forward, slouching and rounding the back, crossing the legs etc, taking its toll on the hips, spine and shoulders.

Even if you have a desk job, there are things you can do to help avoid problems related to too much sitting. These include:When the phone rings, instead of staying seated, make a habit of walking while having the conversation.

If your building has stairs, take them instead of using the lift whenever possible.

Wear a pedometer throughout the day. This can be a real eye-opener as to how inactive you may be. Aim for the recommended 10,000 steps a day.

Use work breaks to get up and move.

Set a goal of standing up and stretching once an hour. Regular stretching relieves stress and can help ease tightness that might otherwise get the better of you.


Marjie Gilliam