Sitting All Day, Is It Really That Bad?
Time and time again, scientific studies have told us that sitting all day is bad for us.
On the other hand, a 2017 study explored the negative effects of standing all day. Researchers found that those who stood longer than 2 hours experienced increased discomfort and decreased mental functioning.
So, which is right?
Unsurprisingly, most Americans spend 12 hours or more a day sitting. And sitting for the majority of the day increases visceral fat - fat around the organs and middle part of your body. This is the worst kind of fat. It increases your risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Hence, the link between leading a sedentary life and experiencing an early death.
It further increases back pain and joint problems - causing many individuals chronic pain issues worldwide. Thus, we concluded that sitting is bad for us, which is true if you are doing it all the time.
Make way for the standing desk.
Many workplaces started to adjust to these findings. And many companies made the move to improve their employees’ well-being and health by replacing regular ol’ desks with the innovative standing desk.
Then, we got terribly confused. A new study made headlines claiming that standing could potentially be just as bad. It felt like a lose-lose.
But when we look close at this study, it included only 20 participants - a relatively small sample size when compared to the world population of 7 billion people. This means it’s findings should likely be taken with a grain of salt - until at least more research has concluded similar findings.
The study ended by saying that standing for long durations should be done with caution. In other words, if you are a relatively fit individual, you might be just fine working from a standing desk for most of the day. If you don’t do any activity, it’s best to start slow and gradually increase your standing time - like you would with exercise.
Essentially, it appears the most optimal type of environment is one that promotes movement. A combination of standing, moving, and sitting is best. After all, the human body is made to move. And it seems that any position for a prolonged duration can be harmful.
“Okay… but I work in an office, and my job requires me to sit in front of a computer all day.”
Just because your job revolves around a computer does not mean you have to remain sitting all day long. In fact, doing so is likely doing your health more harm than good. Your posture might suffer, your weight may reach unhealthy levels, and apparently, even exercising at the gym after work for an hour isn’t quite enough.
So, what can you do?
Move! It’s not rocket science. Nor should it be. The answer is really really simple.
Move. Your. Body.
How? Walk around on your lunch break. Every hour or 2, do a lap around the office while you mull over a decision or brainstorm. Stretch more and often - Below we list stretches to do every day at the office.
And don’t give up that after-work gym time! You are definitely doing yourself more good than you would be by heading home and parking it on the couch until bedtime.
Stretch It Out At The Office
Why stretch? When you sit, certain muscles inevitably shorten. For example, your hip flexors and hamstrings become tight. These shortened and tight muscles create imbalances in the body. They may pull on your pelvis and spine, causing pain.
Your posture is also likely not bang-on all the time when sitting. I constantly catch myself hunching over my laptop - even though I know that bad posture can cause a variety of different ailments. You don’t think about it and so again, imbalances are created due to the unnatural position you are holding your body in.
And yes, you might feel silly stretching at the office. Ignore the haters - it’s your health here! If you sit most days at your job, you need this. The following are stretches to do everyday - maybe even every couple of hours.
Begin on all-fours. Keep your heels together. You can also spread your knees wide if it is more comfortable or keep them close together - you do you! Slowly bring your buttocks as close to your heels as you can. Keep your arms outstretched in front of you. And hold this position for 20-30 seconds. You should feel a gentle stretch in your back. Aim to do this 2-3 times a day.
Sit in your office chair. Scoot your bum to the edge of the seat (but make sure you aren’t about to tip and fall off!). Extend one leg straight and plant your heel on the ground. Bending forward at the waist, lean your torso toward your extended leg. You should feel a stretch in the back of your thigh. If you don’t, try propping your foot up on a stool or your desk and repeating the stretch. Hold for 20-30 seconds and do 2-3 times per day, per side.
Knee to Chest Stretch
This one is best to do lying face up. But if you’d rather not, you can also do this one from your office chair. Basically, you are bending your knee and pulling your leg as close as you can toward the chest. You should feel a stretch in your low back and buttocks. Hold for 20-30 seconds and do 2-3 times per day, per side.
Cat & Cow
You’ll want to be on all-fours for again for this stretch. Inhale and drop your belly down toward the floor, curving your spine downward. Bring your gaze to look up toward the ceiling. Exhale and arch your back upward, pulling your belly in, and gaze down in between your hands. Repeat 10 times and do 2-3 times per day.
Hip Flexor Stretch
Begin in a low lunge position on the ground. If it is more comfortable place a sweater or pillow under your knee on the ground. Lean your body forward and into your front knee. You should feel a gentle stretch on the front of your back leg’s hip. Hold here for 20-30 seconds then, switch sides. Do 2-3 times per day.
You can do each stretch once at 3 different times throughout your day, plus a few walking breaks. You won’t only be counteracting the negative effects of sitting, but you might actually be helping your own mental functioning and alertness by getting your blood moving. This means you will likely be more productive at work (it’s a win-win!).
So, Is Sitting All Day Really That Bad?
Yes and no. You have to counterbalance it.
If you sit all day and don’t move, you are leading yourself down a steady health decline (and yikes - possibly an early death). You are responsible for your health. Take care of yourself - one walk or stretch at a time.
Related Article: The Secret Muscle That Can Cure Your Back Pain