Can Sitting Too Much Kill You?

Fun ExerciseHave you been hearing about all the research that is coming out about sitting?   We used to be a nation of doers, now we’re a nation of sitters. We are now seeing that not only do we not eat actual real food out of the garden like we did back in the good ole days, but we don’t move either. The combination is proving a bad combo for our health.  My main theme here is to start eating real whole food and cut the processed non-foods.  Don’t worry about counting calories, carbs or fats, just concentrate on eating actual real foods.  Shoot, most kids in elementary school can’t even pick out the vegetable that makes up ketchup.  They can’t identify a sweet potato.  We need to change this and turn this ship around before it’s too late.  But, now here comes the flip side of the coin.  You need to start moving more again.  And, I’m sorry to say, even if you exercise most days a week that doesn’t excuse you from the sitting rule.  Just like exercising doesn’t make up for a night of insomnia, it won’t make up for sitting all day, and sometimes all night.

WebMD and the NIH have summaries of numerous studies that have been conducted on sitting as it relates to health.  Unfortunately, sitting all day elevates risk of and leads to cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, pain, obesity & belly fat, type 2 diabetes and even cancer.  Some studies showed that it contributed to worse mental health as well. These are the major diseases that are plaguing us today. The highest risk is for people who sit for 11 hours or more each day.  Consider if you have a desk job you sit for 8 hours a day.  Your commute to and from work, sitting, may be an hour or more.  Do you sit and watch 2 programs in the evening? That’s 11 hours. Yikes.

Now in Chinese medicine terms this makes perfect sense.  In Chinese medicine one wants the blood and qi to circulate through the body uninterrupted or blocked.  This will allow all of the organs to be nourished properly and thrive.  When we start seeing stagnation, we start seeing pain, aching, the channels and collaterals throughout the body begin to see blockages of flow and the organs then are affected by the lack of qi & blood flow.  This is when dis-ease starts to develop.  We use herbs and acupuncture, and sometimes cupping, to break up these blockages and allow the qi and blood to flow freely nourishing the body again.

So, what are you supposed to do if your job requires you to sit all day?  I’m glad you asked.  There are things that will help you out.

1. If you have the space or are able, try a standing desk.  These are becoming more and more common in large office spaces today.

2. Be sure to get up for a couple of minutes every half hour if you are sitting at your desk.

3. If you are watching television, the commercials mean get up and get moving.

These are some of the moves you can try whether it’s a commercial or you are getting up from your desk.

1. Stand firm with feet hip width apart.  Stretch your hands up to the sky and reach as far as you can.  Look up at your hands.  This should open and stretch the entire length of your body.  A lot of people do this in bed when they first wake up to get everything moving and stretched out before their feet even hit the floor.  You will be energized for sure.

2. Stand in a doorframe.  Put your arms up like a goal post with forearms flat against the doorframe. Now allow yourself to slowly lean forward.  Hold the stretch for at least 10 seconds. This will stretch your shoulders back and open up your chest.  Be sure to breath during this one and don’t hold your breath! This is a great counter stretch to the hunched over the desk position that most people practice all day.

3.  Get down on the floor beside your desk or chair. Get into a lunge position with the right leg forward and the left leg back. Drop the left knee to the floor and lean forward into the stretch keeping your chest upright.  Be sure to wiggle that front foot out so that your knee doesn’t jet out past your toes when you sink into the stretch.  Hold the stretch for 10-20 seconds on each side.  This will stretch out those hip flexors that get tight when we sit too long.

4. Stand and bend your right knee bringing your foot up to your backside so that you can grab your foot or ankle for a quad stretch. Holding your right foot behind you with your right hand, bring your foot as close to your rear as you can while keeping the knee facing the floor (don’t let the knee point out to the side).  If your foot is touching your tush and you still need more of a stretch, try to tilt your pelvis by tucking your rear under. Hold each side for 10 to 20 seconds.

These  moves will get the qi and blood moving.  It takes only about 2 minutes to 4 minutes to go through all of them.  Add a trip to refill your water glass or a trip to the restroom and your body is ready to go.

Bonus Thought:  All of these stretches will also help reduce neck and back pain due to stress, sitting too long, or poor posture while working. Honestly, most of the neck and back pain that I treat here is rooted in too much sitting and not enough stretching and moving.  Please remember that stress causes everything to tighten and contract including your breathing.  If you do these stretches throughout the day, you will not only feel better, you should be able to reduce the effects of stress on the body and all the while reduce your risk for chronic illness.  Win-Win.



This entry was written by Dr. Shelly Masters , posted on Tuesday February 17 2015at 03:02 pm , filed under Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

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