Don’t Sit All Day…

A woman sitting in front of a computer with a lower back pain

Sitting all day long is not good for your health.

You already know that physical inactivity leads you to many types of physical problems, including obesity, cardiovascular diseases, hypertension, diabetes, cancer, bone loss etc. One study published in the last year attracted many people’s attention; women who sit for long hours every day have two to three time more of a chance to develop a life threatening blood clot! It is similar to the famous “Economy Class Syndrome.” The blood clots developed in the veins in the legs and then travel to the lungs and clog up the system, which may kill you.

Since many of us spend the majority of the day sitting (at office, during the commute, and at home watching TV,) this could be actually quite a serious problem, especially if you are overweight and have poor circulation. One remedy is, of course, working out. However, it may not be enough.

Even if you are working out 3 times a week, if you sit still the rest of the day, the gym time does not necessarily cancel out the negative effects of the sitting. According to a Finish study, the level of inactivity of the muscles is about the same between people who regularly work out and people who live a sedentary life. It means that even if you are attending a gym several times a week, if you sit still for 10 hours a day, it is still bad for your body. Therefore, you really need to add “regular” physical activities though out the day.

It seems that if you are active throughout the day, even if you sit for a long time every day, the probability of getting blood clots is minimum. According to the same Finish study, if you sit less than 10 hours a week ‘outside of’ the work compared to someone who sits about 40 hours a week, the probability that you may get a blood clot is 25 percent.

So what can we do? Well, we just need to move!

Whenever possible, stand up and walk around, at least once an hour at work and at home. Do some toe raises and stretch your calves.

If you are required to sit for a long time because of the job, the first thing that you can do is to keep a good posture. Keeping a good posture requires many muscles in the body. Whenever you have a chance, tighten up your legd, butts, and abs muscles and then release the tension.
Straighten up the legs under the desk if you can. You can also do toe raises under the desk without getting anyone’s attention. In other words, fidget as often as you can. One study says that people who often fidget can lose 4 to 5 pounds more weight per year compared to people sit still under the same conditions. It is a small energy expenditure per day, but it can accumulate in a long run, and yes, it can prevent blood clots.

If you have your own office, you may want to get a standing desk with a tall stall. It is a great way to add “small” exercises all day long. You need the stall, since it is NOT good for you to stand at the same position all day long either. You need to walk around, and occasionally sit away from the stall to release the pressure from the feet. Especially if you wear high heeled shoes, you need to release the pressure regularly. Otherwise, you will get bunions soon or later.

If you use public transportation, you may want to keep standing rather than taking a seat. Because you need to keep your balance while the vehicle is moving, it is actually quite a good workout. If you drive for commuting, I recommend parking your car slightly farther than you like. Walk 5 to 10 minutes before getting in the car for another one hour drive, as this stimulates your blood flow in your legs.

Every small activity counts, and in the long run, you harvest the benefit of the activities and don’t need to worry about the blood clot. Add as many small “exercises” as you can though out the day. Yes, it is a lifestyle change and it will make you healthier.

Physical inactivity and idiopathic pulmonary embolism in women: prospective study. BMJ, 2011; 343
Exercise for fitness does not decrease the muscular inactivity time during normal daily life. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, 2012

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