Four Reasons Sitting May Be Bad for Your Health and What You Can Do About It
Many jobs require sitting – desk jobs, driving jobs, monitoring jobs, etc. Sitting is often called the new smoking, and in the information age where everything you need is at your fingertips, there may be some truth to this. Of course, a moderate amount of sitting is not bad for you, but the longer you sit, it can begin to affect your health.
Here are some reasons sitting may not be as healthy as you think. It is not all bad news, but here are some suggestions to stay healthy if your job requires you to sit for long periods.
- Sitting Cuts Off Circulation: It has long been recognized that sitting affects blood flow in the legs. But how bad is it?
- Subjects sat for three hours in this study. The dilation of the arteries in the legs was measured and was found to be reduced buy up to 33%.
- The study goes on to state that a mere 1% decline in blood flow increases the chances of cardiovascular disease by 13%.
- This is the reason that people on long plane rides and patients who spend a long time in bed with illness, can end up with blood clots in their legs.
- Best solution: Don’t sit for long periods of time. Some workers set an alarm on their phone or Fitbit to remind them to stand every 30 minutes. Another way to reduce pressure on blood vessels is to have a properly fitted chair that spreads your weight over a larger area of your legs and buttocks.
- Sitting Puts Stress on the Spine
- The low back or lumbar spine is supposed to have an inward curve. This puts the least amount of stress on the discs and other structures in the spine. Sitting for a long time reverses this curve causing pain and discomfort.
- If you have bulging discs in the low back, sitting can make it worse. The outward curve causes the disc(s) to slowly bulge more over time. This can create pain in the disc(s) but also can cause pain by pressing on nearby nerves.
- The sacroiliac joints are where the spine joins with the pelvis. Sitting puts stress on these joints causing pain in the buttocks or down the legs.
- Best Solution: Get a chair with lumbar support. Periodically stand up, lean back, and push your hips forward. This move stretches your hips and spine in the opposite direction to counteract the effect of sitting.
- Sitting at a desk can cause pain in the neck and other joints.
- Shoulder impingement can be cause if you lean forward all the time. This puts your shoulder at a disadvantage. Over time the muscles in the rotator cuff can become pinched between the bones of the shoulder.
- Protracted posture can be caused by working for hours hunched over a screen or work station. Your neck and shoulders can become rounded and tend to point forward. This causes muscle tightness and pain.
- Best Solution: Elevate your screen to eye level, make sure it is in front of you and not to the side. If you are on the phone for most of the day, a telephone headset can ease stress on your neck and shoulders.
- Sitting Is Not Active
- You are supposed to be active. Our bodies are not made to sit still. Many of the body’s systems are at their healthiest when we are moving. When active – our lungs fill with air, blood moves freely, and joints become flexible. There is even evidence to suggest we are able to think more clearly when walking or exercising.
- Calf muscles assist the heart. As we walk around, the calf muscles pump blood out of the legs towards the heart. When we sit, the heart must do all the work by itself. This means slower circulation, swelling in the ankles, and sometimes blood clot formation.
- Joints need activity to be healthy. Cartilage receives nutrients through the synovial fluid in the joints. If you’re not moving, the fluid is not circulating, and the cartilage may suffer over time.
- Muscles need to move to prevent atrophy. Healthy muscles support your joints and spine. If you’re not using them, you are losing them. Spending a large part of your day in a chair can make you weaker, affect your balance, and can cause unsupported joints to begin to ache.
- Best Solution: Make sure you get up regularly throughout your work day and walk around. Take your breaks standing. To counteract the effects of sitting, think about exercising at lunch or before/after work.
Do you have questions about Avala Physical Therapy or one of its programs? Call and schedule a complimentary consultation with one of our Physical Therapist experts today at 985.801.6265.
Thanks for reading. I hope you found something useful in this week’s article. Check in next week for more tips and tricks on how to get healthy and stay that way.Paul Jones, Director of Physical Therapy/Rehabilitation Services
Avala Physical Therapy