Do you spend too much time sitting? Are endless hours consumed by the daily commute, being seated at work, and watching your favourite television series?
Engaging in regular, moderate or vigorous exercise is an important health recommendation, but new research suggests that it’s not enough. Constant sedentary behaviour — in other words, sitting too much — is a risk factor for serious disease.
Do you ever think you’re too busy to exercise? Leading an inactive lifestyle is common, with work pressures and busy calendars often preventing us from doing regular exercise. Many years ago when survival depended on our ability to farm and hunt for food, strong, powerful and active bodies were essential. Nowadays, adults in Western countries spend approximately nine to eleven hours a day sitting, so the muscles have little reason to move and strengthen. As the saying goes, “use it or lose it.”
Lack of movement also leads to an elevated risk of some diseases. When we move less, our arteries can become stiff, which contributes to the development of cardiovascular disease. Lack of physical activity also affects the hormone insulin, making a steady blood sugar level difficult to maintain, which can act as a precursor to diabetes. Various cancers may be attributable to spending more than three hours each day stationery, but the reasons for this are not yet clear, and research is ongoing.
More recent understanding of these health issues has given rise to the alarming quote, “Sitting is the new smoking.”
Not only does inactivity bring an increased risk of serious illness, but it also affects our weight, muscles, posture and spine.
When we are sitting, our hip muscles remain in a shortened position, pulling on the back. This can alter the spinal curves and posture, leading to strain and stress through the discs and joints of the spine. These changes extend upward which can result in back, neck and shoulder pain.
The good news
To put it simply, the longer we sit the more our health is at risk; but the good news is we can easily prevent this – just move more! Taking simple steps to increase the frequency of movement makes a significant difference. Break up sedentary periods. Stand every 20 to 30 minutes for several minutes of motion. Use a sit-stand desk, or switch your seat for an exercise ball. Structured, regular exercise is an important step, but incidental activity is also essential.
Being physically active will loosen tight muscles, improve your posture, calm physical distress, and reduce your risk of disease. A little movement, often, can lead to a longer, healthier life. Ask your chiropractor for tailored advice on the type of exercise and care that best suits your needs.
This article first appeared in the May/June edition of ‘Your Chiropractor’. To read more, feel free download the whole newsletter linked to our May update.