Sitting is a part of everyday life, and many of us work in desk based jobs where we might easily be sitting for 8 or more hours a day. But, even if you love what you are doing, you have probably heard that sitting is not good for you. What you may not know is that sitting for prolonged periods of time:
- Raises the risk of cardiovascular disease by 14%
- Raises the risk of cancer by 13%
- Raises the risk of diabetes by 91%
- Leads to the Atrophy (breakdown) of muscle
- Increases the risk hip and back pain
- Increases the risk of anxiety and depression
- Increase risk of varicose veins and deep vein thrombosis
The good news is that a new study suggests there is something you can do to reverse the negative effects of sitting.
The study based out of Norway and the U.K analysed data from more than 1 million people from 16 countries around the world (including Australia).
The authors classified the people in the study into 4 different groups depending on their activity levels.
The study found that:
- The increased risk of death linked with sitting for eight hours a day was eliminated for people who were physically active for at least one hour a day.
- The eight-hour-a-day sitters who exercised had a significantly lower risk of death compared to people who sat for fewer hours a day but weren’t active.
The take home message from the study is that when sitting for prolonged periods of time ANY movement is good movement. When stuck at a desk all day shifting positions frequently, getting up for a stretch, walking to a bin or photocopier are great ways to incorporate movement. Incorporating ‘Incidental’ exercise on the way to from work is also a great way to increase your total physical activity. Stairs instead of lifts/escalates and parking slightly further away from work or train stations are good examples.
The Best Exercises to do at Work
- Sit to stand
Start by scooting close to the front of the chair. Next, lean forward at your trunk and reach forward with your arms and rise to standing without using your hands to push off from the chair or other object.
This is a full body exercises which will also increase heart rate. Complete 5-20 (depending of your fitness level) as many times as possible throughout the day.
2. Toe touches
Standing with feet shoulder width apart, slowly bend forwards reaching towards the floor. Breathing out slowly as you lower yourself. Keep your head tucked in and legs straight. Hold for 1-2 seconds at the bottom and slowly return to standing.
This is an excellent way to stretch out hamstrings, lower back and neck. Repeat 5-10 repetitions as many times as possible throughout the day.
There should not be any pain in this movement.
3. Back arch
Standing with feet about shoulder width apart and hands in the small of lower back. Slowly bend backwards as far as possible without forcing the movement. Breathing out on the way backwards, hold for 1-2 seconds and return to standing.
This is an excellent way to stretch out hip flexors, lower back and neck. It also helps neutralise lumbar disc pressure associated with sitting. Repeat 5-10 repetitions as many times as possible throughout the day.
4. Torso Rotation
Preferably in standing. Bend elbows so hands are on or behind the head. Bring elbow as far back as possible to open up the chest. Slowly Rotate torso to the side, and look over your shoulder as far as possible. Breathing out as you rotate to the side, hold for 1-2 two seconds and return to the centre before starting the other side.
This is an excellent way to stretch out the back, stomach and chest muscles. Repeat 5-10 times each side as many times as possible throughout the dayk.
5. Hip flexor stretch
Come into a half kneeling position as pictured. Keep your trunk upright. Shift your weight forwards onto the front leg maintaining an upright posture and hips squared forward until you feel a stretch on the front of your hip (the leg which is back).
This is an excellent way to stretch out hip flexors which in many cases are a major contributor to low back pain. Hold for 30 seconds to 1 minute each side and complete as many times as possible throughout the day.
If you have any questions at all please get in touch.
This article was inspired by the recent publication of:
Does physical activity attenuate, or even eliminate, the detrimental association of sitting time with mortality? A harmonised meta-analysis of data from more than 1 million men and women http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(16)30370-1/abstract