Dr. Robert J. Woodbine

November 2019 Health & Wellness

Several studies and reports in the past ten years strongly suggest that prolonged sitting can negatively impact the quality and length of one’s life. Our modern sedentary lifestyles increase the risk of heart disease, obesity, cancer, and diabetes. Medical experts even have a name for this now- “Sitting Disease.”

If you commute to and from work, sit at your work desk for a minimum of eight hours daily, and then relax on your sofa watching television for the evening, you are potentially compromising the quality of your health and well-being. Consider, too, the level of inactivity promoted by our dependency on technology that allows us to shop online, conduct our banking electronically, and streamentertainment into our homes—activities that typically, in the past, we would physically engage in. In other words, we would go out to walk about. We are no longer just couch potatoes. We are now becoming the potato.

A 2010 study by the American Cancer Society and published in the American Journal of Epidemiology followed a group of 123,216 individuals over thirteen years and found that-

  • Women who were inactive and sat over 6 hours a day were 94%more likely to die during the time period studied than those who werephysically active and sat less than 3 hours a day.
  • Men who were inactive and sat over 6 hours daily were 48% morelikely to die than their standing counterparts.

These findings were independent of physical activity levels (the negativeeffects of sitting were just as strong in people who exercised regularly).

A report by Australian researchers in 2010 in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association, concluded that-

  • each hour spent watching television on a daily basis is associated with an 18% increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease

To combat ‘Sitting Disease’, daily moderate exercise is an excellent strategy. Recognizing the potential negative impact to their bottom line, some businesses have installed ergonomic desks that allow workers to stand at their desks to minimize sitting all day. However, standing for protracted periods of time can also tax a person’s health. According to the Cornell Human Factors and Ergonomics Research Group (CHFERG) of Cornell University, standing all day can-

  • Increase the risk of varicose veins
  • Negatively affect fine motor skill coordination
  • Be more fatiguing than sitting since it takes 20% more energy to stand than to sit
  • Put strain on the legs and feet as well as the circulatory system

Their recommendation is to combine periodic standing and movement with sitting so that you develop a suitable strategy to address the biomechanical and physiological needs of your body and the demands of your workplace. In this vein, other interventions can include cultivating a daily Qigong (pronounced Chee Gung) practice such as the standing or sitting versions of the Eight Pieces of Brocade. These routines incorporate gentle movements that activate: the muscles, tendons, ligaments, joints, and the internal organs;focused breathing to modulate the stress response, and mindful attention to promote circulation, flexibility, and stamina. When practiced regularly, one can experience an improved sense of well-being.

The keynote to remember is to minimize sitting for prolonged periods of time and to incorporate movement strategies throughout your day whether at work or at home.