Our bodies are designed for movement, but most of us spend much more time sitting than moving. It is estimated that adults sit for an average of eight to 10 hours a day. Some people consider their one-hour daily workout to be sufficient movement, but fitness researchers say that even if you are physically fit, sitting for lengthy, uninterrupted periods of time can impact your health negatively. We often forget that movement means much more than burning calories. Along with reducing the risk of falls and improving cognitive function as we age, movement helps prevent Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, the loss of bone density, depression, anxiety and even the loss of sleep. And you can get the movement that will help you avoid the negative effects of sitting without even leaving the house. You just need to leave the couch.
Prolonged sitting takes a toll
Abdominals and back: Sitting places more pressure on your spine than standing. Lengthy sits in a slouchy position can weaken ab muscles and tighten back muscles, resulting in poor posture that can cause chronic pain from the compression on the spinal discs.
Hips: When flexible, our hips enable us to take long strides and help us with balance, but when sitting for too long, the hip flexor muscles become tightened, limiting range of motion. Then deceased hip mobility sets in, which can lead to falls.
Legs: Swollen ankles and varicose veins can develop as a result of poor circulation in the legs.
Shoulders and neck: Slouching forward when sitting can cause the overextension of back and shoulder muscles, putting a strain on the neck and shoulders.
What can you do?
• Even when you’re sitting, it’s good to be a fidgeter. Simply shifting positions frequently can be beneficial.
• When you sit at the computer, try using a large exercise ball as your chair. I use one and it gives me freedom of movement. It also engages core muscles and helps with balance. If you’re not ready for this, use an upright chair without arms, which will help you sit up straight.
• Take breaks every half-hour from sitting by standing up and sitting down about eight to 10 times consecutively. If you need reminders to stand up, have a timer nearby. You will strengthen muscles that will help you transition from a seated position to a standing one.
• When you make or receive phone calls, make it a habit to stand up and pace while you are on the phone.
• Stand up and walk around during commercial breaks. You also might want to do a few stretches.
Check with your doctor before starting a new exercise program. Sally Anderson is happy to hear from readers but can’t respond to individual inquiries. Contact her at [email protected]