This great guest post was written by Dr. Serena Goldstein, a naturopathic doctor specializing in natural hormone balance! I encourage you to go check out her website!
When the Paleo diet became popular not too long ago, much of the rationale was due to that we should be eating like our ancestors. Extending that logic to our bodies that can pertain to everyone, sitting for extended periods of time has been shown to have deleterious effects to not just our posture, but also our overall general health.
Since the industrial revolution around the 1950’s, cars gave way to our main version of transportation and desk jobs soon became the norm (both sitting), and while human bodies are meant to sit, too much of anything can create undesirable effects.
Negative Consequences of Sitting More than 3 Hours Per Day
1. Weight Gain
Exercise helps boost mood through endorphins, but also builds muscle, burns calories, decreases sugar cravings, and improves metabolism in the way our body utilizes sugar. On the contrary, sitting for extended periods of time can lower metabolism and contribute to extra pounds.
2. Tight Iliopsoas
Our psoas to our 12th thoracic vertebrae around our abdomen, and connects with our iliacus to form the iliopsoas, on our femur. This tight muscle can contribute to low back pain, groin pain, and hip pain, as it stays in a constantly flexed position for extended periods of time.
3. Increased Risk of Heart Disease
Men whose jobs involved sitting for prolonged periods of time increased their risk twofold of cardiovascular disease, versus men who had a job that required physical activity (Hamilton et. al, 2008). Furthermore, total sitting time consistently correlated with increased risk for fatal and non-fatal cardiovascular disease, regardless of sex, age, body mass index, and physical activity levels (Ekelund, 2012).
4. Increased Risk of Type 2 Diabetes
In Type 2 Diabetes, the person does not make enough insulin take glucose into the cell or the cells are resistant to allowing glucose to enter (insulin resistance). Exercise, however, helps the cells become more efficient in taking in glucose and utilizing it for energy.
5. Increased Risk of Premature Mortality
Multiple recent studies have found that increased sitting time is associated with an elevated risk of all-cause mortality due to being related to a higher incidence of hypertension, cardiovascular disease, cancer, obesity, and Type 2 diabetes (Bouchard, Blair, & Katzmarzyk, 2015).
6. Increased Risk of Cancer
One study demonstrated that a sedentary lifestyle is correlated with an increased risk of colon and rectal cancer risk in both men and women, when exercising five or more times per week of moderate to vigorous intensity versus rarely exercising (Howard, et al. 2008). Endometrial cancer, common cancer associated with hormonal imbalance, is also correlated to decreased physical activity (Gierach et al., 2009).
7. Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH)
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Many studies have made the correlation between increased physical activity and exercise and a decreased risk of BPH, defined by an enlarged prostate that commonly occurs over decades, with sometimes the most common symptom of the inability to empty urine (Parsons, 2011).
What To Do To Help Decrease These Risks
1. Exercise Regularly
Not just sitting at a desk all day, or in front of the television, or car, and then going to your one gym class. Getting up every hour to walk around, or if you go to the bathroom (drink enough water to go every hour), take a long way. Take the stairs when you can too. Consider walking for meetings instead of sitting
Whether it’s at your desk, or even when you get home, taking at least 5-10 minutes to do stretch and move.
3. Take Care of Your Psoas Muscle
Sit with your feet flat on the chair, and ensure your sit bones (bony prominences on your buttocks) are on a flat chair and sitting up straight. Do lunge stretches too to help stretch.
4. Consider Getting a Standing or Treadmill Desk
A standing or treadmill desk will allow you to spend more time standing and give you a break from sitting for extended periods of time.
Numerous studies have shown that fidgeting, such as wiggling your foot, can help burn more calories and another way to keep moving even as you’re sitting
6. Consider Using Commercial Breaks (or the whole show) for Exercise
While watching TV, during the show or commercial breaks, consider using this time for quick exercises such as sit-ups, jumping jacks, or stretching.
Hamilton, M. T., Healy, G. N., Dunstan, D. W., Zderic, T. W., & Owen, N. (2008). Too Little Exercise and Too Much Sitting: Inactivity Physiology and the Need for New Recommendations on Sedentary Behavior. Current Cardiovascular Risk Reports, 2(4): 292–298.
Ekelund, U. (2012). Commentary: Too much sitting – a public health threat? International Journal of Epidemiology. 41(5):1213-17.
Howard, et al. (2008). Physical activity, sedentary behavior, and the risk of colon and rectal cancer in the NIH-AARP diet and health study. Cancer Causes Control. 19(9):939-53.
Gierach, et al. (2009). Physical activity, sedentary behavior, and endometrial cancer risk in the NIH-AARP diet and health study. 124(9):2139-47.
Bouchard, C., Blair, S.N., & Katzmarzyk, P.T. (2015). Less sitting, more physical activity, or higher fitness? 90(11):1533-40.
Parsons, J.K. (2011). Lifestyle factors, benign prostatic hyperplasia, and lower urinary tract symptoms. Urology. 21:1-4.
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