Is Sitting Really the New Smoking?
You may have heard the claim "Sitting is the new Smoking" in the media lately. We know that smoking kills, and this shocking headline suggests that spending too much time sitting is just as harmful. Is it just a catchy attention grabber, or is it really that bad for you?
While tobacco use has been in steady decline (we have seen a 36% decrease in the last 13 years in Canada), sitting is on the rise. Prolonged sitting is so common that most people don't question the negative health impacts - like smoking habits back in the 60's. Many Canadians have jobs in which we sit most of the day. Add to that time spent commuting, followed by our leisure time sitting in front of a computer or television.
It is obvious that if we spend more time sitting, we spend less time exercising, but even those who are active outside of work are still at risk. Just like smoking, prolonged sitting can still be bad for you, even if you exercise and eat well. In a 12-year study of more than 17,000 Canadians, researchers found that the more time people spent sitting, the earlier they died, regardless of age, body weight, or how much they exercised.
Our bodies are designed for movement, when we spend even a few hours sitting, our metabolic activities slow down. Enzymes responsible for the breakdown of sugars and fats get shut off. Genes that prevent blood clotting and inflammation in the cardiovascular system are suppressed. The circulation of blood and lymph slows down, and fluids collect in the legs. These are reasons why those who sit for prolonged periods are at dramatically increased risk for obesity, sleep apnea, heart attack, stroke, depression, and various types of cancer.
Some of the latest research shows that movement is also important for maintaining healthy brain function. Receptors found in the joints and muscles of the arms and legs feed back to the central nervous system, and the research shows that feedback from spinal joints and the axial skeleton play an especially important role. Inactivity and prolonged sitting can cause our muscles and joints to stiffen up and restrict normal range of motion, particularly in our core. This joint and muscle stiffness not only makes us more susceptible to subluxations and injury, but most importantly reduces the body's ability to send this information feedback to the brain.
If you are one of the millions of Canadians who has a desk job, fear not, there are solutions! The key is to keep moving as much and as often as you can.
1. Get Adjusted: A chiropractic adjustment is specific to restoring and maintaining these important movements in the joints, counteracting the negative effects of prolonged sitting, and maintaining the health of your nervous system.
2. Take Breaks: Set a timer for yourself to get up from your desk and take a walk around the office every hour. While you're up, do some stretches for your neck, shoulders, chest, and hip flexors.
3. Standing Desk: If possible, set up a standing work station, or a changeable workstation that allows you to shift between sitting and standing throughout the day.
4. Walk & Talk: Take your meetings on the road. Meetings with small groups can be done while walking. Not only does this get you out of your chairs, it also provides a refreshing change of scenery, keeps participants more alert and engaged, and many people find they are more productive and creative when on the move.