The health impact of too much sitting

The health impact of too much sitting

sitting-for-too-longAs an Occupational Therapist, I have always strived to maintain good sitting posture, be aware of my office ergonomics and live a healthy and active lifestyle.   So it is somewhat alarming to realise that 30 minutes of exercise every day is not enough to counter-act the effects of sitting all day at work.

From a personal perspective I was quietly excited to think that there was something else that I could do for my health rather than face that run that I dread every afternoon, but from a professional perspective I realised that it would be a challenge to change the habits and expectation of what a typical office worker should do all day…….SIT.

We all know that trying to change habits is hard, so the first thing we need to establish is WHY?  Well, these are the facts that I have compiled from various resources:

  • Researchers have linked sitting for long periods of time with a number of health concerns, including obesity, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist and abnormal cholesterol levels.
  • Studies of activity and health found that men who reported more than 23 hours a week of sedentary activity had a 64 percent greater risk of dying from heart disease than those who reported less than 11 hours a week of sedentary activity
  • Research shows that reduced sitting could have a considerable impact on cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.
  • The health burden associated with insufficient physical activity is likely to far exceed the health burden of associated computer-related musculo-skeletal disorders.

Humans weren’t designed to be so immobile – just think back to our hunter-gatherer ancestors.  As an Occupational Therapist I am well aware of the benefit and very proactive in my support for ergonomic chairs in the work place (and the reasons for those will fill another blog another time!) – but these ergonomic improvements are not enough to off-set the health issues associated with prolonged sitting.

So, how long should we stand at work?

The answer is ¼ – 1/3 of our day, and ideally that should be incorporated into each and every hour.  I will address some solutions to how we can stand more in the office in my next blog post, but for now don’t give up those afternoon runs…