Desk Stretching

Why Working Out Isn’t a Free Pass to Sit All Day

Whether you are at your ideal weight or have extra pounds, working out at least 3 times a week is recommended as a lifestyle habit. So what about the rest of the day? Even if you exercise, let’s say for 1-2 hours every day, that leaves 22-23 hours unaccounted for.

The main things the modern era offers us are plenty of desk jobs and long distances to travel by car and other means of transportation, all of which make us sit down for long periods. So can you really make up for all those hours of complete physical inactivity with your daily workout?

To be clear, the problem under discussion is too much sitting, which remains a problem even if you exercise enough. A study conducted in Australia revealed that a person with a lifetime habit of watching TV for 6 hours/day can expect to live 5 years less than someone who doesn’t watch TV at all.

Sitting at desk

What does too much sitting do to our bodies?

Several studies (1, 2, 3) reviewed the effects of prolonged sitting on the human body and reached the same conclusion: this habit can increase the risk of conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, and other chronic illnesses.

For many decades, science focused on finding out the health benefits of regular exercise. Still, there are other ways a person can stay active, and recently, researchers realized they need to look at all types of activity that take place throughout everyday life.

A Swedish study selected every third 60-year-old man and woman in Stockholm County to participate. About 3,900 subjects participated in this 12-year study to determine how non-exercise physical activity impacts longevity and the risk of CVD.

The study showed that the most active people were less likely to have a heart attack and/or die. However, this study didn’t focus on other benefits of a highly active lifestyle. Scientific research also proved the importance of exercise for seniors for reducing the risk of dementia, depression, diabetes, and even cancer.

How does sitting damage our health?

While sitting down, muscle contraction is reduced to a minimum, causing decreased blood flow throughout the entire organism, which also slows down the metabolism, among other biological processes.

Another problem with prolonged sitting is our posture. Poor posture puts pressure on our spine and organs, often producing discomfort under the form of back pain and muscle aches.

What can be done to reduce the harm done by sitting?

The first thing you can do is interrupt the sitting process as often as possible. It’s not very easy, especially when you’re focused on your work, so the easiest way to make sure you never forget is to set a reminder. Standing up for 30-60 seconds every 15-20 minutes is a good start. Once you can do this, you can perform a few squats or some easy stretching exercises during your breaks.

The next thing is ensuring you have a proper posture while sitting down. The classic advice would be maintaining an S-spine, but that’s simply exaggerated and unnatural (you would never adopt that position without forcing yourself).

S Spine Vs J Spine

A J-shaped spine is more natural and can greatly reduce the negative effects of sitting too much. The back should be straight, the lumbar almost flat and the buttocks protruding slightly. For more information, you can check out Ester Gokhale’s website, the inventor of the Gokhale method, which can help you learn how to adopt a proper posture.

Last, but not least, having an active lifestyle is extremely important. It’s not just working out, that occupies a very small portion of the daily schedule.

Non-exercise types of movement included within everyday activities, such as walking, washing the car, shopping, vacuum-cleaning, dish washing…etc., all of them accomplish the same goal: they all keep you moving and doing anything else but sitting.


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