You might have heard the latest phrase: Sitting is the new smoking.
The problem is less about sitting itself, and more about the lack of movement and activity that occurs when you spend the day sitting.
What actually happens when you sit?
We now sit on average for over 9 hours a day, including time spent working, driving and relaxing at home. This is number has increased from an average of 6 hours a day only 20 years ago.1Peper, E., Harvey, R., & Faas, N. (2020). Tech Stress: How Technology is Hijacking our Lives, Strategies for Coping, and Pragmatic Ergonomics. Berkley: North Atlantic Books.
As we sit our muscles move less frequently, blood flow slows, which in turn means that your organs and brain receive less oxygen leading to reduced energy, focus, and concentration. At times, it can even contribute to lower mood.
In short term, prolonged periods of sitting can contribute to rounded posture, increased pressure on your spine, muscle tension, alter your digestion by compressing the abdomen, decreased circulation in the cardiac and lymphatic systems, and can put us at risk for injury.
Over time, a sedentary lifestyle can increase your risk of chronic health problems including diabetes, heart disease and some cancers.
What you can do about it?
The answer is pretty simple: your body is designed to move!
While you might be active in your out of work hours, when you work at a desk it’s common for many of us to spend much more time sitting than we would like.
Our muscles, bone, soft tissues, and organs all require movement to function optimally, so it’s important to try to incorporate as much movement into your day as you can. Studies have shown that doing even a few minutes of physical activity can be beneficial.2Hales, D. & Hales, J. (2018). Personal Stress Management: From surviving to thriving. Cengage: Boston, USA.
As you move, blood flow to your brain, muscles and organs increases, which can boost your energy levels and mood, and helps to improve your focus and memory. Moving more during your workday can provide benefits in the moment, and importantly it may also lead to fewer health issues later in life3Peper, E., Harvey, R., & Faas, N. (2020). Tech Stress: How Technology is Hijacking our Lives, Strategies for Coping, and Pragmatic Ergonomics. Berkley: North Atlantic Books..
Take a moment to get up and go for a walk, alternate between working at seated and standing desks, or rebalance your body with some mindful movements. Have a look at our tiny movement exercises to help yourself move more during the day.