The Importance of Moving
According to the CDC, 1 in 4 Americans sits for 8 hours or more a day. Whether it’s due to sitting at a desk for work all day or if the weather outside is too cold or hot, it’s essential to get moving in some way. It is recommended that the average adult gets 150 minutes of moderate movement or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity a week to help keep yourself limber and help prevent weight gain. There are many ways you can sit less through the day standing desks, taking breaks from sitting every 30 minutes, doing desk yoga, etc. The best way to get moving and stick to it is by doing activities you love.
What are the cons of sitting too long?
While sitting has been called the new smoking by many, it is not the case. Both sitting long periods and smoking are bad for your health, but they have different effects on the body. Sitting is good for you in moderation (like most things!). On the flip side, if you’re only standing all day, whether for work or because you have a standing desk, that can also impact your health. The key is moderation and balance. You might be wondering, “what are some of the dangers of sitting?” and we’re here to teach you.
The Dangers of Sitting
It might sound like an over-exaggeration to call sitting dangerous, but there have numerous studies conducted that link sitting too much to multiple health issues.
Do you find your back hurting after a long day of work? Sitting for long periods without standing can cause all sorts of aches and pains– especially back pain. Not moving all day forces the vertebrae in the spine to compress onto each other and withstand more force, increasing the risk of chronic lower back pain. On the other hand, when you stand upright, you naturally put the discs in your lower back into proper alignment. The muscles that hold these discs in place can atrophy when not used, leaving the nerves between the discs in a vulnerable position.
While sitting might be relaxing and comfortable, sitting for long periods can cause pinched or strained nerves, leading to more than just back pain because the pain can radiate to other parts of the body. If you are sitting with your head looking down most of the day, the weight of your head (it weighs 11 pounds!) puts a strain on your spine and muscles that support your head.
How to combat back pain due to sitting?
Some ways you can combat back pain are by doing the following:
- Adjust the height of your computer monitor. Raise or lower your monitor so the top of your computer monitor is at eye level. Your gaze should fall naturally on the area of your screen that you look at most often, so you do not have to tilt your head or lean forward.
- Choose the right chair. The right chair will make a world of difference and lessen your back pain. Choosing a chair with good ergonomic support can save your back! Choose a chair with adjustable height, adjustable armrests, lumbar support, and the ability to swivel are all things you should look for in a chair.
- Practice good posture.
- Take frequent short breaks throughout the day. Taking a quick walk around the office or doing some desk yoga are great ways to help keep back pain at bay.
Have your legs and feet been swollen lately? Swollen legs and feet could be due to sitting for prolonged periods. If your lower legs and feet get tired, swollen, and achy after sitting all day, you could be experiencing blood and fluid pooling in those areas after a long period of sitting. The worst-case scenario would be developing Deep Vein Thrombosis due to lack of movement and exercise.
Deep Vein Thrombosis is when a blood clot forms in a deep leg vein, which is dangerous because it can travel to the lung. To prevent blood clots from forming in your legs, taking movement or exercise breaks every 30 minutes to 1 hour is essential. Getting your legs moving is vital to preventing DVT from forming.
Heart disease is another side effect of sitting too much. In addition to affecting vascular health, sitting also impacts things like sugar regulation and blood pressure—by altering the normal function of blood vessels, it feeds into diabetes and heart attacks. Studies conducted are finding that exercising doesn’t necessarily negate the risk of getting heart disease.
While exercising is fantastic and necessary for a healthy life, sitting 8+ hours without movement can still affect your health even if you do a vigorous workout every day. To keep your heart healthy, take short walks throughout the day to keep your blood flowing.
A common complaint we have gotten in the clinic throughout the pandemic has been patients saying they have gained weight. Many of us have led more sedentary lives the past year, so it makes sense that we may have gained a few pounds. That same sedentary lifestyle has continued to happen because many of us have returned to work. Sitting 8+ hours a day (are you sensing a trend) can lead to weight gain.
Some ways to avoid gaining weight are staying active throughout the day, exercising regularly, and not eating while distracted. If you’re eating lunch while browsing the internet or watching YouTube doesn’t give your brain to register when you’re full so that it can lead to unintentional overeating.
What are the benefits of being more active?
Since we’ve covered the dangers of sitting for prolonged periods, we also want to cover the benefits of moving. Exercise and moving, in general, can have some unexpected health benefits.
Reduction in pain
There’s a reason physical therapy exists! Exercise and movement can help reduce pain in several ways. Movement and exercise increase strength, flexibility, reduce joint pain and alleviate combat fatigue. If you’re already in pain, it may be hard to get out of bed and have the motivation to exercise. The exercises don’t have to be intense HIIT workouts and can be as simple as walking around the office or doing some gentle stretching. As we always say, motion is lotion.
Moving and grooving throughout the day will help boost your cardiovascular health and give you the energy to boot. Exercise helps deliver oxygen and nutrients to your tissues and helps your cardiovascular system work more efficiently. Exercising will also help build your endurance, so you’ll have more energy and strength to do daily tasks efficiently.
A better night’s sleep
One of the best ways to get a good night’s sleep is to stay active during the day. Physical activity in the morning and early afternoon can reset your sleep cycle, allowing it to trigger sleepiness a few hours later. Exercising at night isn’t typically recommended, as it can make people feel energized and delay sleep; some people find that nighttime exercise is just what they need for a whole night’s sleep.
Improve your mood
Exercising isn’t just good for your body, but it is suitable for your mind too. Physical activity sends feel-good signals for your brain to release endorphins. Endorphins are responsible for feelings of happiness, calm, and well-being. These chemicals also have pain-relieving and immune-boosting qualities. Endorphins are why physical therapy helps with chronic pain conditions. Increasing your physical activity and living a healthy lifestyle is key to improving your mood and managing chronic pain.
Are you having trouble getting moving?
We can help! Physical therapy is a great way to get moving, especially if you don’t know which exercises are right for you. Give us a call at (973) 400-3730 or schedule an appointment here to get moving today.