With more and more people using computers at work and spending the majority of their day at the desk, lifestyles are becoming more sedentary for a lot of people. Where you used to walk up to the 5th floor for the weekly conference meetings, now you log into a video chat meeting. Where you used to walk to the bosses office with a question or issue, now you send an instant message or an email. No more going out to buy or rent anything, almost anything can be shipped or streamed to your home. You don’t even have to sweep or vacuum the floors anymore, you can buy a robot that will do that for you. The fact of the matter is, there is a trend that is decreasing the time we spend on our feet and increasing the time we spend on our rear. While it is true that people are paying a lot more attention to ergonomics than in the past, ergonomics don’t offset the health issues a sedentary lifestyle can cause. With technology making things easier on us and our lifestyles requiring less physical activity every year, it doesn’t seem like this trend is going to change. This all begs the question, is sitting the new smoking?
Over the last decade or so, you may have seen or heard about an article or headline with this question: is sitting the new smoking? While sitting may not seem like such an immediate hazard to your health as smoking, there are definite health risks that come with a more sedentary lifestyle:
- Your body was built to be upright and move around. When you don’t walk as often, your leg muscles will lose strength over time, leading to a greater risk of falls or injury from strains when you do exercise.
- Extended times in the same seated position, usually at a computer desk, can lead to a multitude of pains and injuries due to poor posture and improper ergonomics.
- Excessive sitting also gradually shortens the hip flexor muscles and can lead to issues with the hip joints.
- Research suggests that people who spend more time sitting have a 112 per cent higher risk of diabetes.
- Long periods of sitting causes blood to pool in the legs and can lead to varicose veins as well as increase the risk of Deep Vein Thrombosis or blood clots that form in your legs.
Fortunately, there has been a definite increase in the attention people are paying to the ergonomics of their office space, which is a great thing. You see a lot more standing desks and exercise ball chairs than you did 20 years ago. We have done a few posts on ergonomics in the workplace and tips to avoid repetitive workplace injuries in our blog that contain great ways to counteract and/or prevent some major issues that can come from long periods of sitting at work.
While a lot of this information seems focused on the workplace, there are millions of people in this country who have sedentary desk jobs and also live a very sedentary lifestyle outside of their work lives.Even though there seems to be an uptick in attention paid to ergonomics, this is still a big issue that some consider an epidemic. The World Health Organization estimates that sedentary lifestyles account for 5.3 million deaths a year.
If you are looking for a way to try to add more activity into your lifestyle, a good place to start is your workday. A lack of physical activity in the day will actually decrease energy levels, so that can exacerbate sedentary tendencies. Take more breaks to stand up and walk around. Drink more water, your body will appreciate it and it will make you get up to go to the bathroom more often. Park a little farther away in the morning and choose the stairs or take a stroll outside during a break. Just find ways to spend more time on your feet moving. From the workplace, bring these new habits home and work them into your lifestyle. Maybe you take the dog on a longer walk everyday or trade in one episode of your Netflix show for some kind of physical activity. Or you could find something to do while you watch your shows, exercise bikes with a view of the TV are popular. Any way you can find to add just a little bit of physical activity helps, so take a look at your lifestyle and try to find ways to get on your feet and get active. Your body and mind will thank you.