Maintaining optimal health involves many criteria to be dialled in just right to ensure you get the most out of your life. One must consider the things that can inhibit your body from operating at its full potential, like avoiding smoking, drinking to excess, eating processed foods, etc., while ensuring we’re doing the things that are good for us as part of our daily routines, like exercise, eating a healthy diet, and getting enough sleep to mention a few. Recent research has drawn our attention to the serious health consequences associated with sitting for hours at a time, which is common today because of the way we work and entertainment ourselves.
I wrote a blog post on this topic earlier this year, and I think it’s worth another look, because so many of us are forced into this situation because of our jobs. This time however, Dr Les weighs into the topic and explains how sitting on our butts for hours throughout the day and into the evening, has serious health risks we should be aware of. He has done an excellent job of pointing out the risks while providing simple solutions to remain active, even if you’re stuck for hours behind a computer.
Enjoy the Ride….Rob
"He who sits the most, dies the soonest"
By Dr Les Davidson
Seven characteristics differentiate the "living" from the "non- living" — cellular form with heritable genetic information with respiration, metabolism, reproduction, excretion, response to stimuli and movement. It Is because of the profound relationship of "movement" to life that our chiropractic clinic is named Adjusted for Life.
Most people tend to think of movement in terms of physical fitness or weight loss but movement is a fundamental ingredient of being alive. It is why our clinic’s mission is—Adding Life to Your Years. The life-sustaining benefits of movement are so critical that I remind patients that while chiropractic care won’t heal them, it will remove barriers to the body healing itself.
But what constitutes movement?
For years, experts have advised us that there is a baseline level of physical activity necessary to maintain health and wellness. Canada's Physical Activity Guideline recommends 150 minutes a week of moderate to vigorous aerobic activity. This baseline level has been shown to lower the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and cancer as well as provide overall health benefits.
However, research now indicates that 150 minutes of aerobic exercise each week can't protect us from the risks associated with being inactive for the other 9,903 minutes. It’s like eating a salad for lunch and then snacking on foods laden with trans fats or smoking during the break or consuming excess alcohol when you get home from work. Common sense suggests that you can’t expect one good habit to override the other health risks.
Your body relies on movement to increase oxygen uptake, circulate blood and lymph fluids, transport food down the digestive tract and lubricate your joints. For this reason sitting needs to be considered as an independent risk factor to your health. It is a risk that is dose dependent. In other words it matters how long you sit at a time, how many days of the week you sit and cumulatively how long you have sat over the years.
Risks of sitting:
- Metabolic syndrome with increased risk of heart disease and diabetes. An important tool to counter this risk apart from proper diet is movement. The metabolic demands of movement are quantified in units known as metabolic equivalent tasks and range from .9 MET at rest to 20+ for sprinting. Simply increasing our MET from 1.0 to 3.0 or shifting from a sitting to a standing position changes our metabolism positively. This is why standing at work when you can is important. If you decide to be more vigorous it is important to check in with your family physician before starting any exercise program.
- Loss of productivity because of fatigue and poor concentration. Your brain receives oxygen and proprioceptive nourishment as well as sensory information regarding balance, position and movements when you are active. In other words, if you want a healthy brain, you have to move your body. "Ninety percent of the stimulation and nutrition to the brain is generated by the movement of the spine," notes Dr. Roger Sperry, Nobel Prize recipient for brain research. Sperry said that movement of the spine acts like a windmill powering up the brain.
- Musculoskeletal pain from short and tightened muscles. Intra-discal pressure increases by one-third from lying to standing and another one-third by sitting in a slouched sitting posture. If your joints hurt or your posture is poor, consider chiropractic. Chiropractic adjustments improve joint function which will enable you to move better and more frequently—components that are fundamental ingredients to life, health and well-being.
Over the years, I have instructed patients and corporations on correct ergonomics in the work environment. I make recommendations on how to tailor their work station to specific needs in order to lower the risk of injury from cumulative trauma. While this is important, I believe it is more important to consider harm reduction or prevention. In other words it is less important how well you sit, than how long you sit!
The first step is to find ways to limit the total time you sit followed by strategies to break up this total time into as little prolonged sitting as possible. Then consider the mechanics of how you are sitting followed by exercise recommendations to counter the imbalances that occur to the soft tissues with sitting.
This time of year, with the fall weather and the return to studies and work our risk from prolonged sitting and diminished activity increases. It is important that you consciously work to counter this in your lifestyle. Three suggestions for countering this risk are
1. Replace some of your lunchtime with exercise.
2. Plan your TV time so that you aren’t drawn into watching mind numbing hours of programming.
3. Incorporate into your day simple posture improving stretching movements such as these provided by Straighten up Alberta.
Adding life to your years.... Dr. Les