About how many hours each day do you spend sitting? Most cases of chronic pain I see clinically are the result of sitting for extended periods and not enough varied movement throughout the day. While symptoms of pain can be emotionally draining and often times impossible to ignore, those responses only scratch the surface of the more pernicious health risks associated with sitting for extended periods of time. Humans weren’t built to sit all day. In fact, we were designed for physical activity and vigorous movement. Our ancestors had much more varied activity every day from squatting to sprinting, to carrying heavy objects, to walking long distances.
Our current modern lifestyle has huge health costs associated with spending so much time on our bums.
Whether it’s driving, working at our computers, watching TV, or scrolling our social media feeds, most Americans spend more time on their butts than they do on their feet.
Here are some specific ways being sedentary is harmful to your health:
- Adverse reactions to metabolism and metabolic function (hello spare tire around the middle and difficulty losing weight)
- Increased risk of cardiovascular disease (decreases HDL levels, increases triglycerides)
- Reduced insulin activity (think type II Diabetes)
- Weakens the bones and contributes to osteoporosis
- Harmful effect on the blood vessels
- Increased risk of death
What I find most interesting about this scientific research is that it supports the centuries-old theories of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).
TCM cautions against sitting too much because it can damage the energy of the spleen. The spleen (in TCM) is responsible for assimilation of nutrients and the manufacturing of blood. When the spleen energy is damaged, we see changes in metabolism as well impaired regulation of the blood vessels.
While you might be one of those people who makes up for the 10 hours each day you spend on your duff by doing regular exercise, it might surprise you to know that working out doesn’t negate the harmful effects of extended periods of sitting.
At least this was the finding of an American study of over 100,000 U.S. adults. Those who sat for more than six hours a day had up to a 40% greater risk of death over the next fifteen years than those who sat for less than three hours per day, regardless of whether the participants had exercised! You can read more about the study HERE.
All of this isn’t to say you should stop exercising!
The best way to decrease risks associating with sitting too long is to spend more time standing
If you have a desk job, ask permission to use a standing desk. There is plenty of evidence that proves excessive sitting is dangerous to employee’s health and furthermore, that standing does not negatively affect productivity.
Creating a healthier lifestyle doesn’t require a 180 degree change in behavior.
In fact, I have found the most effective way to modify behavior to improve overall health and wellness has been in the tiny tweaks we can make throughout our day.
Whether it’s eating fewer processed foods, spending more time on our feet or going to bed 30 minutes earlier, the longterm health benefits are significant.
Here’s my challenge to you: make a conscious commitment to spend at least 1 additional hour on your feet every day for the next week. Then let me know what effects you notice!