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Health & Fitness

Harmful effects of prolonged sitting + Solutions

Prolonged sitting is bad for the spine, the neck muscles, shoulder muscles, chest, lungs, legs, and what not. Prolonged sitting is also connected to high blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat especially around the waist area, and abnormal cholesterol levels.

The other day, a colleague of mine told me about how he spends over 8-12 hours on a computer. His typical day includes 8-12 hours sitting on the desk, and then he goes back home, slouches on the couch in front of the TV with his family, and then spend about one hour minimum reclining, in front of his laptop, in the bed. He rests his spine whole day. 

There are over 12 Ted Talks simply talking about how to sit properly. Yes, I counted. Simply speaking, sitting is bad for the spine, the neck muscles, shoulder muscles, chest, lungs, legs, and what not. Prolonged sitting is also connected to high blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat especially around the waist area, and abnormal cholesterol levels. Presumably, any type of extended sitting on desk, in front of the computer, or even behind the wheels is harmful. 

Research suggests that the risk of dying for someone who is sitting on their desk for more than 8 hours without any physical activity is pretty much equal to the risk of dying from obesity or/and smoking. The impact of movement is profound for maintaining good physical health, even if that means taking brisk walks regularly. Research also suggests that just 40-50 minutes of light physical activity is enough to counter the negative effects of prolonged sitting. 

There are a few things you can do to keep these harmful effects at bay. First, take regular breaks at work. Set a timer on your phone for 50 minutes every time you start a session. I have a Casio watch that blips every hours, which I consider as an indication to get up, walk, and stretch a little. 

Second, practice Surya Namaskar. It is an ancient technique that help you stretch your body muscles to their full capacity using just 12 simple positions. You can start with minimum seven repetitions, and then increase the count gradually. Takes less than 10 minutes, and it’s a complete exercise for your mind and body.

Surya Namaskar is the ultimate asana, meaning it’s a full body workout. You don’t need any equipments, or go to the gym, or survive on peanuts (although you can), to maintain your weight and agility for a long life. 

Third, just practice the first three steps of Surya Namaskar, if you can’t practice all of them at once. It entails you becoming conscious about your physique in the Namaste position, and then taking your arms in the air, and bending backward as far as you can, and then touching your palms to the ground. Just practicing these three steps will keep you safe from the perils of prolonged sitting. 

Fourth, learn to sit properly. Imagine how you would sit, if you still had a monkey like tail. You would have to keep your hips pushed back, and you would be resting on the thighs, instead of the buttocks. Your spine would be straight, and you would’t be making an effort to sit erect. The spine itself would keep you erect, without having to rest it using support.

Sitting on the buttocks bends the spine like a bow, especially if you are sitting in front of a screen, which is very harmful for lower spine, and thus the complains about lower spinal injury and lower back pain after a tough day at work. Oh wait, Bob and Brad can show you how to sit properly. 

So that’s about it. You shouldn’t be sitting for so long. And if you have to anyway, you should learn to sit correctly. Start moving.