Sitting for prolonged hours per day, whether at our work stations, home computers, driving our cars, watching television, eating or playing games on ‘smart’ phones or computers can contribute to poor health. When combined with little or no exercise it can lead to many health problems including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, leg and back pain.
According to Mayo Clinic research approximately 50 to 70 percent of people spend six or more hours sitting every day.[i] If you fall into this “sitting disease” category it is important you talk with your chiropractor about effective strategies to help you sit less and move more.
What is Sitting Disease?
Medical and alternative healthcare practitioners describe the negative effects of long periods of physical inactivity or sedentary living as ‘sitting disease’. Some practitioners may use this term to refer exclusively to a collection of risk factors that often occur together to boost your risk for type 2 diabetes, coronary artery disease and stroke, but many people apply this term in a more comprehensive manner to describe the full range of effects possible, including back pain and postural problems.
Regardless of how you define it, prolonged sitting is having a significant negative effect on our health. According to a study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a sedentary lifestyle can significantly shorten life expectancy.[ii] This study also notes that you can boost your life expectancy by 2 years by reducing your sitting time to less than 3 hours per day and by 1.4 years by keeping your TV or computer time under 2 hours per day.
Even if you are exercising regularly, this is not enough if you continue with prolonged sitting activities and can lead to cardiovascular and metabolic problems, even in adults who meet recommended exercise guidelines.[iii]
Chiropractic to the Rescue!
Sitting for long periods can wreak havoc on your musculoskeletal system, as your body’s joints and other tissues need to move to stay healthy. Reduced physical movement alters important physiological functions and can, over time, limit your joint range of motion. However, chiropractic care is the perfect antidote to sitting disease. Your chiropractor can provide you with acute care to help relieve your existing discomfort and set you up with a long-term strategy to keep you moving and pain free.
Because moving just a little more every day helps improve your muscle tone, boosts your circulation, fires up your metabolism and burns excess calories you can try several strategies to help you move more and sit less. Try setting a timer at your desk that reminds you to stand every hour, walking while you are on the phone, purchasing a pedometer to count your steps and switching from traditional video games to ones that encourage movement or activity. For eliminating back pain at work, many people find kneeling chairs beneficial as they help reduce low back and tailbone pain and keeps your spine in proper alignment.
Natural Skills & Movements
Examples of movements that involve locomotion are walking, running, crawling, jumping, swimming and climbing, whereas some manipulative skills or movements include catching, carrying, lifting and throwing. Today, fewer people engage in a wide range of activities, to the detriment of our musculoskeletal well-being. Inactivity is a major factor in reduced joint range of motion and joint health, including spine function and health.
Performing natural skills in the natural world is a powerful way to combat or prevent chronic musculoskeletal problems, but simply spending time in nature is, by itself, an effective way to develop better health. Studies show that the restorative effects arising from experiences in nature are greater than those arising from vacation experiences in urban environments or situations involving simple passive relaxation.
Engaging in active play in the natural world is a powerful way to restore physical health, but green exercise positively affects mental health, too. According to a study published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, green exercise helps significantly boost mood, especially when performed in the presence of water. This study also noted that the mentally ill showed the greatest improvements in self-esteem among all study participants participating in green exercise and that the environment provides an important health service.[iv]
Your chiropractor understands the importance of an active, healthy lifestyle and can work with you to find the most beneficial approach to limit sitting time. Ask your chiropractor what strategies are best for you.
[iii] Dunstan DW, Healy GN, Sugiyama T, Owen N. Too much sitting and metabolic risk—has modern technology caught up with us? European Endocrinology. 2010; 6 (1): 19-23.
[iv] Hartig T, Mang M, Evans GW. Restorative effects of natural environment experiences. Environment and Behavior. 1991. Jan; 23(1): 3-26.
Additional information provided by David Coyne – Articles on Sitting Disease and Moving Naturally