Are you sitting comfortably? should you have? In recent years, you’ve probably read at least one headline stating that sitting is “the new smoking.” While this isn’t fundamentally true—putting aside the fact that it’s much easier to live without a cigarette than without a seat—it’s fair to say that our love affair with the chair comes with a few drawbacks.
So how long can you sit, how often should you take short walks, and are gym balls any good? Spoiler alert: You may want to stand up this time.
First: The idea that sitting still can be bad isn’t just a 21st-century scaremongering. One of the first studies to suggest a connection between illness and sitting was conducted in the 1950s, when researchers found that double-decker bus drivers were twice as likely to suffer a heart attack than their fellow drivers. Since then, dozens of studies have found links between sitting and various diseases, and a 2013 multi-study review concluded: “Greater daily sitting time is associated with an increased risk of all-cause mortality.”
Problems caused by an excessively sedentary lifestyle can be divided into two broad categories: postural problems and cardiometabolic problems. The former can be alleviated somewhat by specific stretching and mobility exercises (such as slow, controlled lunges or squats), or simply by sitting in more joint-friendly postures. and the other? Not so much.
“You can be very active, but that doesn’t completely protect you from a sedentary lifestyle,” says Kelly McIntosh, professor of physical activity and health at Swansea University. “I can run with the dog for an hour every morning and meet government physical activity guidelines, but then sit or do sedentary activities for the rest of the day, which would mean I am at risk in terms of would be classified as sedentary.”
When it comes to posture problems and pain, sitting for long periods of time can strain muscles and tendons, which can lead to patellofemoral pain syndrome — also erroneously known as “runner’s knee” — and There is pain in the lower back.
A recent study found a link between sitting for long periods of time and problems with hip extension, which can lead to other types of musculoskeletal pain. Sitting for a long time at the workplace also causes neck pain.
And for the rest? It is not known exactly why sitting is linked to various health problems, however, the most plausible explanation is that it keeps the body in a relaxed state. When you sit for long periods of time, your metabolism slows, your circulation slows down and your ability to process glucose becomes compromised. In fact, some of the body’s largest muscles shut down, which can result in everything from increased waist size to an increased risk of diabetes.
So what should you do? Sitting on a gym ball doesn’t help much; In fact, it can have negative consequences. A study comparing balls to office chairs concluded that “prolonged sitting on a stability ball does not change the way a person sits, but it does seem to increase the level of discomfort,” whereas Another study found a correlation between sitting and sitting on a ball. “Shrinkage of the spine.”
It is more effective to correct posture. At work, keeping the screen at eye level and your feet flat on the floor is a good start, as it helps keep your spine and hips in less painful positions. However, the easiest way to make a significant difference is to get up every 15, 30, or even 60 minutes.
“There’s a lot of ongoing study on this question,” McIntosh says. “The optimal ‘rest’ time has yet to be determined, but basically, regardless of the total amount of ‘sitting time’ you spend, but combining it with periods of standing, it can affect various aspects of your health. Much better for. Standing up once every 60 minutes helps, too.”
The best option, of course, is to stand for a while after getting up. “An important question is what can employers do to encourage positive behavior and reduce sedentary lifestyles,” McIntosh says. “But if it doesn’t, or you work from home, ask yourself: Are you doing something that doesn’t require you to sit? Can you read your emails while standing? Can you Can you make business calls while standing, or walk while you think?