The real danger of sitting at your desk
Sometimes sitting is a good thing. Like after standing in line for several hours or when you need a rest from a long day of activities. But as technology advances, more and more people find themselves tied to their desk. Usually, it’s a good thing when technology makes tasks easier. In turn, it might not be a good thing if it means people spend more time sitting at a desk.
A recent study of older women published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine showed sitting for extended periods increased odds for premature death. The research found sitting boosted the odds of early death from all causes, including heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
Women who sat for 11 or more hours a day saw a 12 percent increase in premature death. In an article for Harvard Health Publications, one of the study’s authors, Dr. Jo Ann Manson, said sitting for as little as six to eight hours a day is also a health hazard.
Long periods of sitting are linked to a range of health issues. Back and spine problems, sore shoulders, leg circulation disorders, weakened bones, colon cancer, muscle degeneration, misaligned hips and several issues connected with chronic pain can all be associated with long hours of sitting.
Those who are already suffering from one or more of these issues should consult a medical professional that specializes in pain management. For those who have a sedentary job or lifestyle but want to avoid associated health problems, here are some suggestions:
To reduce the risk of chronic disease, people should sit less and move more. Television addicts should get up during commercial breaks and walk around. People who work at jobs with lots of sitting should make it a point to get up, stretch and walk around for five or six minutes every hour.
“The impact of movement — even leisurely movement — can be profound,” explains Dr. James Levine, writing for the Mayo Clinic. “For starters, you’ll burn more calories. This might lead to weight loss and increased energy. Even better, the muscle activity needed for standing and other movement seems to trigger important processes related to the breakdown of fats and sugars within the body.”
Get a new desk
A growing workplace trend is offering employees adjustable desks that can be used both while sitting or standing. A range of options and prices are available online. But simply swapping sitting for standing is not the answer. You still need to make an effort to avoid being in any one position for extended periods.
It’s no secret that daily workouts provide a wide array of health benefits. But exercise won’t solve the problem if you are still sitting for hours each day. “It doesn’t matter if you go running every morning, or you’re a regular at the gym,” explains Olivia Judson in an article in The New York Times. “If you spend most of the rest of the day sitting — in your car, your office chair, on your sofa at home — you are putting yourself at increased risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, a variety of cancers and an early death.”
Lipoprotein lipase is a molecule that helps break down and metabolize fat. Low levels of lipoprotein lipase are associated with a variety of health problems, including heart disease. By the time you add up all the time spent at your desk and in your car, you end up with very low lipoprotein activity after a full day of work. Basically, the longer you sit during the day, the less activity that enzyme has in our bodies.
Instead of confining exercise to a single session, spread your activity throughout the day by taking small walking, stretching breaks.
Choose better food
People who snack at their desks are often consuming calories they don’t really need and frequently making bad food choices as well. Eating a balanced lunch can help curb afternoon cravings. If you do experience a 3 p.m. drop in blood sugar and start to feel hungry, get up and move around, drink water, or chew sugar-free gum to see if it goes away. If you still a snack, stick to healthy alternatives like nuts or yogurt.
Understanding the health risks of sitting is the key to avoiding and overcoming the problem. If you are experiencing health issues like those described, consider talking with a physician experienced in dealing with a range of ailments that could be linked to extended periods of sitting.
Dr. Alex Bigham is the owner and CEO of Novocur Pain Management Clinics and has over 18 years of health careexperience in private practice and Ambulatory Surgical Center settings. Novocur offers advanced treatment options in a concierge type practice without the concierge price tag. Dr. Bigham appears frequently on local TV and radio programs to discuss the latest in Pain Management or related health topics.