One of the major things that I see in our society today is the amount of time that we spend sitting and our unawareness of how bad this is for us. I have a sign in my office that says “sitting rots your spine like sugar rots your teeth” and it is true that sitting for prolonged periods is horrible for spinal and neurological health but this leads to many other health issues as well.
When we look at a typical day of someone from Calgary, we see that they sit during their commute to work, sit at work all day, sit on their way home from work, sit during dinner, and then maybe watch a couple of hours of TV before going to bed only to wake up in the morning to do it all over again. Movement is a requirement for our body to be healthy and many of us today aren’t getting enough movement.
Research has shown that prolonged sitting decreases our ability to burn fat, decreases bone mineral density which increases the risk of fractures, and increases the likelihood of heart disease by increasing blood pressure. Overall studies from many countries have found an association between increased sedentary time and the risk of early death.
Ok, sitting is bad, but I exercise so that should make up for me sitting all day, Right? Unfortunately not. Studies done on people who exercise for five days a week for 30 min. at a moderate to vigorous activity level (recommended guidelines by some texts for exercise) are still at a higher risk of disease. In fact, a large study involving over 100,000 U.S. adults found that those who sat for more than six hours a day had up to a 40 percent greater risk of death over the next 15 years than those who sat for less than three hours a day. Most importantly, this effect occurred regardless of whether the participants exercised. Some research even suggests that people who exercise intensely (like marathon runners) are more likely to be sedentary when they're not exercising. They may assume that their training regimen protects them from the harmful effects of too much sitting when they're not exercising. It doesn't.
So what can I do about this? Well, the first thing to do is to get off your butt. Even if you have a desk job there are ways that you can minimize sitting. Standing during meetings or during breaks, go for a walk on breaks and lunch, bicycle or walk to work, or use a standing work station. A one up on the standing work station is the treadmill desk that really gets you moving while still staying productive. If you do have to sit you can do it more actively by sitting on a yoga ball or a sitting disc. These mobile surfaces will cause more spinal movement which can really add up during the day and can help to reduce the harmful effects of sitting.
This research on the negative health effects of sitting has very interesting correlations to spinal immobility and health as well. It is one thing to have a sedentary life for portions of the day but what about when areas of your spine go out of place and get stuck (what chiropractors call a vertebral subluxation) for very long periods of time? These subluxations interfere with your nervous system and reduce your brain’s ability to control your body. A healthy nervous system is a requirement for us to be healthy and this is exactly what chiropractors do, maintain the brain body connection by keeping mobility in the spine.
Sitting is one of many types of stress that we encounter on a daily basis. It is our daily healthy lifestyle choices that help us to move in the direction of health and wellness rather than towards sickness and disease. These lifestyle choices include eating healthy, being in a good mental state, proper exercise and movement, and proper brain body connection through chiropractic.