Sitting is the New Smoking: How a Predominantly Sedentary Lifestyle Can Hurt Your Health
If you’re like millions of Americans, you probably spend several hours at the gym a few times a week after work and on the weekends. You eat and drink plenty of fruits and veggies, and possibly clock miles for your next marathon or get in some paddle surfing in between sitting through lunch breaks and the next meeting or conference call.you
And while all physical activity is good for overall physical, mental, and emotional health, new research suggests that even a reasonably active lifestyle may not be enough to counter the dangers of sedentary living, where a person spends several hours a day, every day, sitting in an office chair or on the couch.
The Low Down on Too Much Sitting Down
Numerous studies have shown that spending several hours a day sitting can be dangerous, even for people who regularly exercise. While the exact cause and effect relationship between too much sitting and serious health problems are still under investigation, research suggests that poor circulation and insulin buildup can increase the risk for developing several deadly diseases and painful conditions, including:
- Cardiovascular disease
- Higher blood glucose levels and diabetes
- Cancer (breast, colon, colorectal, endometrial, ovarian, and lung)
- Chronic joint pain and stiffness
- Degenerative disc disease
- Femoro-Acetabular Impingement (FAI)
- Muscle pain and weakness
With the average worker in most industrialized countries spending as many as eight to nine hours a day sitting at a desk, car, and at home, even an hour of exercise will be insufficient against the toll that large blocks of sitting and inactivity can take on the body. The most immediate symptom that most people experience from a sedentary lifestyle is joint pain. Inactivity places pressure on the joints for an extended period of time, resulting in uneven wear and tear, loss of flexibility, and pain.
The Stand Up Solution
The increased popularity and availability of standing desks can help to mitigate the joint pain and other health risks, but standing desks are still fairly inaccessible to the average office worker, and transitioning from sitting for an entire day to standing can be difficult and even painful for most people. It is not uncommon for the average worker to experience joint pain, chronic back pain, and stiffness in the hips and legs as a result of their predominantly sedentary lifestyle, particularly if the individuals spend the majority of their day sitting in an uncomfortable chair or position.
How to Relieve Joint Pain, Stiffness, and Other Health Risks of Sitting
Beverly Hills orthopedic surgeon Dr. Steven Meier recommends avoiding prolonged periods of sitting (think no more than 30 minutes at a time) by incorporating small bursts of movement, activity, and standing throughout the day. According to the research, the ideal would be to alternate 30 minutes of sitting with 30 minutes of standing to break up long days in a chair, or pulling over to stretch the legs and back at a rest stop whenever possible during long drives.
The most important element is to incorporate movement at regular intervals in order to stimulate the circulatory system and keep the joints flexible, especially in the legs and hips. Regular movements help prevent joint pain, stiffness, and eventual deterioration.
Setting a timer every 20 to 30 minutes while at work as a reminder to stand up and stretch, even for 5 to 10 minute intervals at a time, can do more to counteract the joint pain and unhealthy effects of spending long hours on end in a chair than cramming in blocks of even intensive activity a few times a week at the gym or on a track.
Orthopedic Surgery and Sports Medicine in Beverly Hills
To learn more about the negative, painful effects that prolonged sitting can have on your knees, hips, back, and overall health, and for treatment options for chronic joint pain and joint injuries, contact Meier Orthopedic Sports and Regenerative Medicine in Beverly Hills at 310-736-2793 to request a consultation today.