The Harsh Truth about Sitting and How to Reduce the Health Risks

The Harsh Truth about Sitting and How to Reduce the Health Risks

 How to Reduce the Health Risks from Long Hours of Sitting

A sedentary lifestyle increases one’s risk for health issues as commonly known. Weak, brittle bones (osteoporosis), poor circulation, weight gain, and poor cardiovascular endurance are just a few to mention. 

Why is it a piece of common advice to stretch every chance you get when on a long flight? It is to avoid getting blood clots and swelling of the legs or ankles from sitting for long periods.

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By now you’ve probably heard that sitting can cause health complications and even shorten your lifespan. If your boss won’t spring for an office full of treadmill desks, you can still stay by finding other ways to spend more time on your feet.

 In fact, a recent study found that walking for just 2 minutes each hour can make a big difference. 

That’s good news for the 80% of Americans who find it difficult to keep up with the minimum amount of exercise experts recommend. For example, the American Heart Association suggests at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity exercise, or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise.

There are many practical ways to overhaul a sedentary lifestyle. Try these suggestions for brief walks and other ideas to spend less time sitting.

Benefits of Sitting Less

1.      Strengthens your heart. Sitting down slows your circulation and speeds up muscle loss, both of which take a toll on your heart. 

On the other hand, physical activity helps to prevent heart disease and even reverses some risk factors.

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2.      Avoid illness. Prolonged sitting has also been associated with diabetes, cancer, and other conditions. A daily walk could mean fewer doctor visits and longer life. Stand, move around, stretch even in your chair.

3.      Lose weight. Naturally, you burn more calories jogging than lounging on the couch. Think about how much better you look and feel when you stay trim. Plus, exercise is safer than crash diets that may not provide essential nutrients.

4.      Enhance your mood. Sitting affects your mind as well as your body. Boost your spirits with a gentle workout. You’ll probably find yourself thinking more clearly too.

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Suggestions for Two-Minute Walking Breaks

1.      Break up tasks. Divide your assignments into 60-minute segments. That’s about as long as most adults can concentrate, so you may even increase the quality of your work.

2.      Create triggers. If you still tend to lose yourself in the flow, develop signals for when to stand up. Maybe you want to program an alarm on your computer, on a Fitbit or Apple watch, or time yourself according to your favorite radio news program. You can always use any strategy to make you remember!

3.      Engage in other light activities. Any gentle task can be substituted for walking. Tidy up the break room or do a few legs raises. If you’re at home, you could weed the garden or dance a few steps.

4.      Talk with your boss. It may help to let your boss or coworkers know in advance why you’re changing your routine. They may want to join you,

Other Ways to Reduce the Risks of Prolonged Sitting

1.      Exercise regularly. There is no need to expound on the benefits of exercise. While a two-minute walk is a good start, there are advantages to additional exercise. More intense workouts will condition your cardiovascular system, thicken your bones, and sharpen your mind.

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2.      Eat a balanced diet. Studies show that adults who sit more, snack more. Try drinking a glass of water or tea to curb your appetite. 

Prepare healthy food you can nibble on anywhere, like yogurt or peanut butter on apple slices.

3.      Stretch your hips and back. Sitting puts a lot of pressure on your spine and hips. Stand up and stretch every hour. 

Just a few stretches you can do in your chair:

 Forward trunk stretch. Hold for 5 seconds. Repeat 5 to 10 times or as able. Relieves a tight and tired back from prolonged sitting.
Upper spine stretch. Place both hands behind the neck, stretch backward against the back of a chair. Hold for 5 seconds. Repeat 5 to 10 times.
Forward and side stretch on Table or desk. Place hands on the desk. Slide hands forward to stretch your back. Hold for 5 seconds. Repeat 5 to 10 times or as needed.
SLide hands toward the left side, hold for 5 seconds. Then slide hands toward the right side for another 5 seconds. Repeat 5 to 10 times on each side or as desired until a good stretch for relief is achieved.

4.      Turn off the TV. At home, do you sit in front of the TV after sitting at your desk for eight hours? Visit the gym or go out with friends instead.

Hold onto your desk job while you take care of your body and mind. Strategic breaks and other healthy habits will help you live a longer and more active life.

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Good posture can go a long way as we go through our daily tasks. Being aware of how to sit or stand properly can eliminate many basic aches and pains experienced. 


Mobile devices have caused a new affliction:  new affliction has emerged: Text neck syndrome
Check this image, one sees this every day. Everyone owns a cellphone, and a vast majority cannot love without holding their cellphone


This reminded me just a week ago of a fragile lady referred to us for frequent falling from Parkinson’s disease. She was about 85 years old, using a walker with a seat, and has poor balance. She has the typical Parkinson’s posture: forward neck, severe kyphosis, and she is bent over on her walker. 
I could not get this lady away from her cellphone so I can perform her initial assessment. She was bent further forward on her neck, shoulders hunched (protracted), ribcage with poor mobility.
Her complaint: muscle spasms in the neck, shoulder pain, and back pain. Why am I not surprised?
I am very lenient and understanding with my patients, especially the elderly. I have worked with teenagers and adults alike who just cannot let go of their cellphones even during physical therapy sessions. Not with an 85-year-old however who was clearly addicted to her cellphone. Bless her heart, I had to keep her hands busy just so I am able to align her trunk properly to prevent falls at home.



Neck pain is a common complaint in about a tenth of the adult population. Children as young as 2 years old know how to get youtube on tablets. I saw this with my own eyes. My twin nieces, both two at that time, knew how to get to Youtube to watch the play the alphabet songs and sing with it! Those two barely know their ABC’s.
Bad posture can be acquired from time spent on mobile devices. This likely leads to worse problems. Back pain affects 8 out of 10 Americans at certain stages in life and is also a leading cause of disability worldwide. 
Tension headaches affect about 80-90% of the population. These are just some problems that can arise from poor postural habits.
Poor posture is qualified as a repetitive stress injury affecting us, plantigrade creatures who roam this earth. It can easily lead to common symptoms that can escalate into more significant morbidities.


Imagine this: You are carrying about 4.5 to 5 kg of weight (approximately 10 to 11 lbs. -the importance of the head) on the shoulders and neck every waking hour. You turn your neck side to side, up or down, or bend sideways. Who or what is responsible for producing all these movements? Your muscles, of course.


The orientation of the head closer to the shoulders is crucial to avoid excessive loading to these supporting muscles.
Biomechanically speaking, for every inch of forwarding deviation of the head, there is an equivalent additional load of about 15 to 30 pounds placed on these muscles.
This basically doubles the weight of the head, forcing these muscles to contract and be in constant tension for prolonged periods throughout the day. Muscles can only contract for a specific period before fatigue sets in.
 This occurs when these muscles are subjected to abnormally high levels of forces required to stabilize the head, which is too far away from its center of gravity. Spasms and muscle cramps can then occur, which can also cause compression within the cervical spine causing tension headaches, decreased blood flow to the brain, and other subsequent symptoms.
Left unchecked, this can lead to more severe problems. 



Being mindful of how you carry your body through the day can make a big difference and improvement in health. 

The most uncomplicated motion of bringing your head and neck back and more towards your mid-line immediately eliminates this excessive load and relaxation of the trapezius muscles (that muscle on both sides of your throat you tend to massage when tight) is noticeable.

1. Stand with your back against a wall. Allow your butt, shoulder blades, and the end of your head to touch the wall. This is your ideal posture closest to the center of gravity.
1. Walk away from the wall.
2. Picture yourself in a position as close to this alignment as possible when standing.
2. When sitting, sit straight and picture looking at yourself from the side. Imagine a straight line from your ear down to your shoulder and hip. Your trunk and thigh have to be at a 90-degree angle (as an L-shape) when seated. The leg and knee also have to be at a 90-degree angle. This ensures proper distribution of your weight in the chair, minimizing overloading the spine and joints.
1. cardiorespiratory functions improve.– By opening up your front chest wall by sitting or standing straight, lungs can expand better within the rib cage, allowing better oxygen intake.  
2. good for stress reduction – When the body is better aligned within your center of gravity, there is less strain in muscles within opposite sides of the body.
3. Prevents Pain  – When muscles are not strained, and joints are better aligned, there is no shearing on muscles and ligaments. There is also none of the unnecessary friction on joints from abnormal loading from poor posture.
4. Balance Improvement– Good posture allows the body to have quicker responses and reflex righting to balance shifts. 
5. Better walking pattern – Good posture allows a person to have a more equal and symmetrical stride and step.

6. It makes one look better, confident. – Ever noticed people with good posture? They stand taller and appear confident, healthy, and strong. They move differently. They are more coordinated with their movements.

 Talk to your doctor, a back specialist, or your physical therapist.
After all, an ounce of prevention is always better than a pound of cure! This was one of my mother’s favorite quotes!

Enjoy a pain-free day to all you hard workers out there!

Get in touch! Feel free to share your experience with pain and how you deal with it. I would love to hear from you! 
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