The average American adult sits for six and a half hours a day. The increasing popularity of video games in the past decade is thought to be a major contributor to this number, according of the Journal of the American Medical Association (https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/article-abstract/2731178). As the world becomes more technologically advanced, daily processes are simplified. Robots, technology and devices streamline activities that previously would have meant physical movement, resulting in people living less active lives. But as we are continually spending more and more time sedentary and staring at screens, what will become of our health?
A study by Harvard Medical School (https://www.health.harvard.edu/pain/the-dangers-of-sitting) found that sitting for prolonged periods throughout the day could result in a number of hazardous health issues. Risk of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome and deep-vein thrombosis are among some of the more serious conditions that might develop due to sitting for too long.
What’s more, the study found that sitting for prolonged periods can also lead to increased pain in general. Because muscles are not being moved as often in a sedentary position, they tend to tighten and in turn, stiffen the joints, leading to increased joint pain. This could make activities such as walking more painful and contribute to lower back pain.
Fitness and sports medicine expert, Edward R. Laskowski, M.D., (https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/expert-answers/sitting/faq-20058005) warns that we need to take excessive sitting seriously. He draws attention to a study that found those who sat for more than eight hours a day with no physical activity held a risk of dying akin to the risks posed by obesity and smoking.
But not all is lost. The good news is that as little as 60-75 minutes of exercise a day could counter the effects of sitting too much. Something as inconsequential as just getting up to get a glass of water a few times a day can make a dramatic difference. Dr. Laskowski has a number of tips he recommends to reduce sedentary behaviour and get people off their seats:
• Set an alarm to remind you to stand up every 30 minutes
• Stand or walk while watching television or talking on the phone
• Try out a standing desk or improvise with a tall counter or bench
• Park further away from your workplace
• Take meetings outside rather than the conference room
• Walk around during a Zoom meeting