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Is sitting too long Killing us slowly?

We are all spending more and more time on our butts! Sitting for prolonged periods of time is detrimental to both physical and mental health. We spend a lot of time sitting down: when we are driving, eating, watching TV, doom scrolling videos, falling into a social media wormhole, or sometimes actually working at our desks. 

Musculoskeletal Issues: Sitting for extended periods can lead to musculoskeletal problems such as neck pain, back pain, and tightness in the hips and shoulders. Maintaining a seated position for long durations can cause muscle imbalances and stiffness, particularly in the back and lower body.

Poor Posture: Sitting for long periods often leads to poor posture = Pain Slouching or rounding of the shoulders, forward head posture, and a curved lower back all place excessive strain on the spine and contribute to discomfort and pain.

Increased Risk of Chronic Diseases: Research has linked prolonged sitting with an increased risk of chronic diseases such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and certain types of cancer. Sitting for long periods is associated with lower energy expenditure and decreased metabolic rate, which can contribute to weight gain and metabolic disturbances.

Negative Impact on Mental Health: Sedentary behavior, including prolonged sitting, has been linked to poorer mental health outcomes, including increased levels of stress, anxiety, and depression. Physical inactivity can affect neurotransmitter levels and mood-regulating hormones, leading to mood disturbances and decreased overall well-being.

Impact on Cognitive Function: Prolonged sitting may negatively affect cognitive function, including memory, attention, and executive function. Reduced blood flow and oxygen delivery to the brain, as well as decreased neurotransmitter activity, may contribute to cognitive decline associated with sedentary behavior.

Shortened Life Expectancy: Several large-scale studies have found associations between sedentary behavior and mortality risk. For example, a study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology analyzed data from over 120,000 adults and found that sitting for more than 6 hours per day was associated with a higher risk of mortality from all causes, compared to sitting for less than 3 hours per day.

What can we do to prevent all this?

Take a BREAK: It's important to incorporate movement breaks throughout the day, engage in regular physical activity, and minimize sedentary behavior whenever possible. By breaking up long periods of sitting with short bursts of activity and adopting a more active lifestyle, you can reduce the risk of chronic disease, live longer, stay stronger, and improve overall well-being.

Movement Break Stretch & Strengthen:

Standing Backward Reach- Stand facing away from a wall, 6-8 inches away from the wall. Next, reach overhead and back to touch the wall overhead. Maintain balance.

Hip Flexor Stretch- While standing position with one leg out in front of the other, lean forward and bend your front knee until a stretch is felt along the front hip area of the back leg. 

Low Back/ Hamstring Stretch- Start by standing with your feet together and your hands on the back of a chair or counter top for support. Next, lean forward for a gentle stretch to your low back/hamstrings.

Squats with hip thrust- Stand with feet shoulder width apart and toes pointed forward. Bend knees and lower buttock towards floor keeping your back straight and bending at your hips. Emphasize your weight going through your heels. For good knee alignment, do not let your knees pass in front of your toes. As you come up to standing squeeze your bottom and push hips forward slightly. 

Shoulder Rows- Pull your elbows next to your body, squeezing your shoulder blades. Slowly return to the starting position and repeat.

Toe/Heel Raises- While standing, raise up on your toes as you lift your heels off the ground, lower back down and then raise up your toes and forefoot. Lower back down and repeat. 

Remember to take your Movement Breaks instead of scrolling through social media or watching videos, as well as do too much. Make a new active break routine, you can break up long periods of sitting, improve circulation, reduce muscle stiffness, and boost energy levels—all of which contribute to better mental and physical health.

Enjoy! Keep moving y’all!

Kayce Howard, PT, DPT, CFPS, Cert.DN

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