We all know that sitting too much can be bad for our health. This is especially true in these exceptional times. I wrote about this same thing 3 ½ years ago. But it is now more applicable than ever.
Whether we are staying home due to the pandemic, because of our retirement, or even if we are still working, we tend to sit in front of the TV or at our workspaces more than 8 hours every day.
What happens to us when we sit too much? Is it really so bad since we’ve basically worked all our lives?
When we are sedentary for a long time, everything slows down, including our bodily functions and even our brains. Our muscles weaken and deteriorate, our posture worsens, and our spine compresses. When our muscles are moving or engaged (remember our heart is a muscle) fresh blood and oxygen is pumped throughout our entire bodies. This keeps our minds stimulated, focused, and promotes healthy bodily functions. Even amidst the pandemic, CDC and doctors advise us to exercise daily.
Prolonged sitting has been linked to high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol, as well as an increased risk for colon, breast, and endometrial cancers. One theory is excess insulin encourages damaging cell growth. Regular movement boosts antioxidants that kill cell-damaging and cancer-causing free radicals. But when muscles aren’t moving, they don’t respond to insulin and then the pancreas ends up producing more insulin. This can possibly lead to diabetes. Sitting for more than 8 hours a day has also been associated with a 90% increased risk of type 2 diabetes.
Muscle degeneration and back problems are another by-product of excessive sitting. When we move, soft discs between our vertebrae expand and contract like sponges, soaking up fresh blood and nutrients. When we sit too long, discs are squashed unevenly and collagen hardens around tendons and ligaments.
So, what can we do? Sit less and move more! Examples are maybe standing while talking on the phone or even when you eat lunch. Go for a walk during work breaks, even if it’s just up and down the hallway. If you work at a desk, try a standing desk, or simply improvise with a high table or countertop. Every 10 to 15
minutes, get up and move, or walk around. Stretching exercises help greatly. Bend over, touch your toes, or do arm circles and rotate your shoulders backward. Set regular alarms on your phone as a reminder to stand up, stretch, and decrease your sitting time. According to “Peak Fitness,” getting up and walking around for 2 minutes every hour increased their lifespan by 33% compared to those who did not.
The advice is two-fold: stand up a minimum of once an hour plus get at least 30 minutes of activity in a day. Lifting that coffee cup or glass of wine for a sip does not constitute exercise. LOL! Please remember to drink plenty of water and stay hydrated.