Chances are, whilst reading this you're sat down and may have been sitting for some time. I’m not judging, after all I'm sat with the dog on my lap, writing about the pitfalls of sitting!
The advancements in transport and technology which aid us in work and every day life are not always helpful to our health. Modern conveniences have resulted in more leisure time but less need to be physically active. As hunter gatherers our ancestors needed to move on constant basis in order to survive, making better use of their bodies than we do today. According to studies, we move a shocking 90% less than our forefathers 100 years ago!
YOU MUST BE JOKING – I DON’T HAVE TIME TO SIT DOWN!
It feels like you spend the whole day literally running from one task to the next. Although you might actually have been seated more than you are concisously aware of. You sit down at meal times, travel to work in the car or the bus, drive the kids to school, more time is spent sitting on the weekend or on a day off, you could be desk bound for several hours at a time and once the end of a tiring day arrives you make yourself comfy on the sofa – after all you've earned a good sit down. A study by The British Heart Foundation showed that Brits sit on their derrière for 2 1/2 months a year! And worryingly 46% of women are inactive.
BUT WHAT IF SITTING IS NOT REWARDING YOUR BODY FOR ALL IT’S HARD WORK – IN FACT SITTING COULD BE THE NEW SMOKING.
“Sitting is more dangerous than smoking, it kills more people than HIV and is more treacherous than parachuting, we are sitting ourselves to death”. I’m not trying to frighten you, this is a statement by Dr.James Levine (director of the Mayo Clinic) given in an interview regarding the adverse effects of a sedentary lifestyle.
It’s not just Dr.Levine that believes this, researchers are continuing to find evidence to suggest that prolonged sitting can increase the risk of: type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancers.
BUT I'M ON MY FEET ALL DAY.
Maybe you have a job which involves standing behind a til, counter or reception for large parts of the day. In that case you probably think that this does not apply to you. Yes standing is better but only if you are moving around. If you're stood in the same position with little or no movement this can still have a negative impact on the body.
The damage is caused when the body is chronically in the same position with very little movement for more than 60-90 minutes.
SO WHAT'S ACTUALLY HAPPENING TO MY BODY WHEN I'M HAVING A SIT DOWN?
We are not suggesting that you shouldn't sit down at all, we all need to take a break from time to time. However it's important to realise what's happening on a physiological level when we are sat for extended periods. The human body is designed to move and long bouts of sitting encourages it to shut down metabolically. Leading to a sluggish circulation, decreased use of blood sugar, poor posture and issues with spine health. A slower metabolism also means a reduced energy uptake, storing calories in different ways to when we are in motion. Scientists have reported that sitting for 8-9 hours a day causes the enzymes that breakdown fat to drop by 90 percent.
I’M O.K I GO TO THE GYM.
Well done you have managed to squeeze in an hour at the gym. Unfortunately this is not enough to offset the negative effects of being sedentary for a large part of the day. Although a workout is an excellent way to improve health and fitness, experts now believe it can’t counterbalance the negative effects of prolonged periods of inactivity. Katy Bowman a Biomechanist and author of Move Your DNA has suggested their is an increased risk of cardiac health issues from being sedentary most of the day and then opting for an extreme session in the gym. Sitting all day restricts blood flow and circulation through your blood vessels and pumping blood rapidly through these vessels is similar to trying to run water through a hose with a kink in it
To offset being motionless for a period of 6-7 hours a day, research has indicated that you would need to compensate with at least an hour of INTENSE exercise. So if you're working maybe a 12 hour seated shift you would need to find time to sweat it out in the gym for two hours.
2 HOURS OF EXERCISE – I DON’T HAVE TIME FOR THAT – WHAT'S THE ALTERNATIVE?
You're too tired to spend 2 hours in the gym and even if you could find the energy you don’t have the time, so how do you rid yourself of the negative impact of sitting.
According to a study in Journal.plos.org it's simple - move more, increasing the time standing and walking is a more effective way to help reduce certain health risks than an 1 hour of planned physical exercise. The trick is to move our bodies regularly throughout the day, even the smallest and simplest changes in activity levels will improve health. Research suggests we need to create frequent opportunities (i.e 4-5 mins every half an hour) to move our butts out of our seats.
Try some of the following to get you moving:
Stand up whilst on the phone.
Walk to work.
Take the staris
Walk instead of driving on the school run
Take a break every hour from your desk just to stand up and move a little.
GIVE YOURSELF A MINI EXERCISE BREAK.
We still believe that organised physical activity (exercise classes etc) play a vital role in keeping our bodies working efficiently, it's also a way to work on specific goals such as strength and endurance. If time is an issue, short bursts of exercise will suit you. The frequency and intensity of a mini workout can bring you the same and possibly more benefits than slogging it out in the gym for hours on end. By using a combination of bodyweight exercises i.e: press ups, squats, lunges, planks, one legged deadlifts, jumping jacks, Burpees etc. it's possible to devise routines that can be done anytime, anywhere, with no equipment.
This is an example of the type of workout that will elevate the heart rate, activate muscles and help to revitalise the mind and body. You can of course design a version to suit your lifestyle.
10am: 15 squats/10 push ups/10 burpees x 2 sets
12am: 12 squats/8 push ups/8 burpees x 3 sets
2pm: 10 squats/5 push ups/5 Burpees x 4 sets
4pm: squats/press ups/Burpees - as many as you can until fatigue or form failure x 1 set
10am: 10 fwd lunges each leg/10 reverse lunges each leg/10 jumping jacks x 2 sets
11am: one legged bodyweight Romanian deadlift 10 each leg/10 squat thrusts x 2 sets
12am: 8 fwd lunges each leg/8 reverse lunges each leg/8 jumping jacks x 3 sets
2pm: one legged bodyweight Romanian deadlift 8 each leg/8 squat thrusts x 3 sets
4pm: fwd/reverse leg lifts then Romanian deadlifts/jumping jacks/squat thrusts - as many as you can until fatigue or form failure x 1 set.
To keep progressing you can add weights or up the repetitions.
Remember if your joints are creaking when you lift your bum off the sofa, you have probably been sitting for longer than is good for you.