I know, I know. Hear me out.
You may have seen this article in Buinessweek that came out a few years ago titled Your Office Chair is Killing You. It focuses mainly on the way that sitting negatively affects the alignment of your spine, encouraging a “C” shape instead of the natural “S” curve, which leads to degenerative disks, neck/back pain, osteoporosis of the vertebra, bulging disks, high blood pressure and about a hundred other things. It also talks about the metabolic changes that occur after prolonged sitting, which increase our risks for obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.
Sitting in a chair all day make the muscles of the legs very tight, which causes hip/leg pain and significantly reduces the circulation to the lower body. Do your feet or legs get numb halfway through the work day? Now you know why! Tight muscles of the hips and leg are also a huge culprit in back pain because they can pull the spine out of alignment. When you are sitting, your muscles are pretty inactive, which significantly affects metabolic processes in your body.
We all know that it’s unhealthy to be sedentary, but here is the part that is often misunderstood.
“People need to understand that the qualitative mechanisms of sitting are completely different from walking or exercising,” says University of Missouri microbiologist Marc Hamilton. “Sitting too much is not the same as exercising too little. They do completely different things to the body.”
Did you catch that? Sitting too much is not the same as exercising too little. If you go to the gym everyday, you may consider yourself an active or fit person. What you need to understand is that an hour at the gym everyday is not enough to counteract the damage of sitting all day. That’s like eating a salad for dinner to make up for the fact that you smoked all day. It doesn’t work like that, right? No amount of kale is going to undo those cigarettes. The research shows we need to sit less, not just exercise more.
Take this quiz to find out how much you ACTUALLY sit each day. It’s very eye opening. The first time I did it, I was shocked!
If you are a student or have a desk job, sitting less requires some creativity. Read how to transition to a standing desk here.
This is my new desk that I made recently. It started out as a $19 baby changing table from the thrift store. Unfortunately, in my excitement, I forgot to take the “before” picture before I tore off the box part on top. (You know, those side pieces that keep the baby from rolling off.)
I attached a piece of plywood on top, painted it, and found some cute hardware in the clearance bin at Cost Plus World Market. A non traditional desk doesn’t have to be expensive or ugly!
I like to multi task by stretching my calves while I work. My dog likes to be RIGHT next to me all the time. Sometimes it ends up looking like this.
Just by standing up you will:
- Increase your metabolism & circulation
- Use more muscles during your day
- Reduce hip, leg & back pain
- Build bone density
- Decrease your risk for cardiovascular disease, obesity & diabetes
It’s not that standing is a magic pill, it’s just a simple way to start reducing the amount of time you are sitting in a chair. You can swap your chair sitting time for sitting on the floor in different positions and other types of movement. The goal is varied and regular movement throughout the day.
Here are a few ideas:
- Instead of meeting a friend for coffee, meet at a park and take a walk.
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
- Instead of sitting at a desk, try sitting on the floor while studying or working on the computer. Cycle through different sitting positions.
- Look for the furthest parking spot instead of the one closest to the store.
- Stretch while watching TV or reading rather than sitting on the couch.
- Read Don’t Just Sit There, by Katy Bowman for ways to get in more movement while you work.