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We all lead our desk-bound lives without thinking too much about what it’s doing to our health, let alone making any drastic cuts. To be realistic, there are so many other things to do and think about

But, let’s say you exercise regularly. That should do the trick, right? Well, not exactly. 

Effects of prolonged sitting can be much worse than a teeny bit of dull pain in your lower back. But how much sitting is too much, you might ask. The truth is, if you spend an eight-hour shift mostly sitting, you already went overboard.

Below are four health dangers of sitting all day and some useful tips on how to minimize them

Health Danger of Sitting All Day #1: Neck and Shoulder Pain

Speaking of health risks of desk jobs, neck and shoulder issues are most likely to set the scene for other afflictions linked to prolonged sitting. So, be sure to pick up the first signs that you’re sitting for way too long

Cause: Neck and shoulder pain.

Do a quick self-check:

Is your monitor resting at the far edge of your desk? Because if it is, you’re probably slouching with your neck jutted out.

This strains your neck and shoulder muscles and creates discomfort and pain.

What Can You Do Immediately? 

Try some stretch exercises. A 2012 study found that regular stretches are much more effective than downing ibuprofen to relieve pain.

Need some last-minute help? The following exercises will help relieve tension quickly.

Chin Tuck Exercise

  • Sit upright in your chair and jut your chin out as far as you can.
  • Put your index finger on your chin and push your chin all the way back.
  • Make sure you keep your head level. Repeat up to four times.

Neck Stretch Exercise

  • Stand forward tilting your right ear towards your right shoulder.
  • Let your left arm fall straight down to give the stretch more weight.
  • Stay in this position 20-60 seconds.
  • Repeat the same on the left side and do the stretch in 4 rounds.

What Can You Do in the Long-Run? 

Just as there are various ergonomic solutions for people that spend their workday standing, your long sedentary day at the office deserves some ergonomic goodies, too.

Now:

If your company invests in employee well-being, you’re lucky. Talk your boss into getting you:

  • A quality ergonomic chair with adjustable armrests. This way you can align your arms at a 90-degree angle, which helps relieve muscle tension.
  • A health spending account. You can use this to book yourself regular physical or chiropractic visits.
  • A standing workstation. This will not only take the pressure off your neck and shoulders but will help you prevent other bad effects on your health. 

Check out the video below, which will help you counteract the effects of sitting for long periods.

Health Danger of Sitting All Day #2: Heart Disease

Health risks of sitting at a desk all day can be as grave as earning your heart disease.  

If your daily timeline includes carpooling to work, pounding away at your keyboard, carpooling again and then unwinding in front of the telly, then you should be alarmed.

“The evidence that sitting is associated with heart disease is very strong. We see it in people who smoke and people who don’t. We see it in people who are regular exercisers and those who aren’t. Sitting is an independent risk factor.” Source: mnn.com

According to a 2017 study, the culprit behind this is a buildup of troponins, proteins released by heart muscle cells when they are damaged or dying.

What Can You Do Immediately?

We’ve just given you enough material to build a strong rationale around changing your sedentary habits, but how are you supposed to do that?

Start by building some strong hydration habits. Load yourself up with water, and by the nature of things, you’ll have a valid excuse (plus an emergency factor) to stand up from your desk.

Taking frequent water cooler and restroom trips are going to do you good. The good news here is that hydrating is heart-healthy as well! 

What Can You Do in the Long-Run?

Want some long-term solutions to promote your heart health? Now that you know regular physical exercise won’t annul sedentary behavior, find ways to minimize prolonged sitting in the workplace. 

It’s simple: Sit less, move more. 

According to Alan Hedge, a professor of ergonomics at Cornell University, a good way to achieve balance is to break up your activities. Sit for 20 minutes, stand for eight, then move around and stretch for two minutes.

Also, try these heart health-promoting tips:

  1. Take a trip between departments using stairs. 
  2. Use a wireless headset or Bluetooth earphones to walk off your business correspondence. 
  3. Make stretch breaks at your desk.
  4. Eat fish at least two times a week. 
  5. Play your favorite stand-up show and treat yourself to a 15-minute heartfelt laugh.

Health Danger of Sitting All Day #3: Weight Gain

Do you have metabolic syndrome? If your day revolves around sitting or lying down, you can be at risk of developing one. Metabolic syndrome is a precursor to further medical conditions, such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Being physically inactive substantially adds to the risk. Sitting in front of a computer all day is the second-most leading factor of obesity in the U.S.

With Kiwis scoring high on the international obesity scale, having earned the title of the chubbiest of 11 nations, there’s room for improvement.

What Can You Do Immediately? 

Did you know you can burn calories without breaking a sweat? The so-called non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) is a fancy name for energy expenditure that’s not as strenuous as exercise, but just as important if you mean to lose weight.

Standing, walking… ring a bell?

A fun fact that will help put this into perspective:
Studies have found that agricultural workers burn up to 1,000 more calories per day than people working desk jobs. It’s due to the mere fact that they move around and stand more throughout the day.

Want to hear some more good news? Even fidgeting can cause a dip in your calorie build-up!

So, what are you waiting for? Start watching your figure by investing some seriously minimal effort.

What Can You Do in the Long-Run?

Move your muscles! It helps your body digest the fats and sugars you ingest.

Speaking of sugars and fats: If you have to choose between a fast-food snack and a fast-food snack at your office desk, opt for the former. It’s the lesser of two evils. Eating at your office desk is the worst possible of all scenarios. You’ll stay seated for longer, but there’s also more to it. Think all that bacteria that’s breeding at the most frequented space of your eight-hour shift.

One thing’s for sure, though: It’s best to go for healthy snack alternatives.

Some more ideas to trim that waistline? Here we go:

  • Try moderate-intensity activity for at least 60–75 minutes per day.
  • Instead of flipping through a book after hours, head outside and run a podcast on your smartphone. 
  • If you can’t find time to exercise throughout the day, bookend your day with two half-hour walks
  • Walk or cycle to work. It’s also a great way to clear your head and pause the mental treadmill.
Key reasons gain weight at work
Photo by New Yor Post / CC BY

Health Danger of Sitting All Day #4: Lower Back Pain

We don’t have to tell you why sitting is bad for your back because if you’re sitting for hours on end for as long as a month, then you’ve felt that occasional twinge at least once. Worse still, you may be suffering from chronic back pain and you’re not even in denial that your desk job has a lot to do with it. 

Sedentary life and lack of exercise make your back and abdominal muscles too weak to properly support the spine. This, in turn, puts a strain on the muscles and ligaments in your back.

What Can You Do Immediately? 

Try this easy exercise for a quick fix when you feel the muscle tension coming on strong. Sit at the edge of your work chair, place your fists to your lower back and rest your elbows on the back of the chair.

Arch your back and lean your head backward. Use fists to gently press into the muscles. Make sure to back your chair against the wall for safety reasons.

What Can You Do in the Long-Run? 

Watch your posture! Ensure your back leans against the back of the chair so you sit upright.

Place your feet flat on the floor so your thighs are aligned with the ground. If you don’t have the right leg support, your back is going to compensate and take on most of the pressure. 

It’s also extremely critical to scatter exercises throughout the workweek. If you reserve all the workout for the weekend alone, you’re still at risk of painful back injuries. Create a routine to implement three times a week. 

Include some core exercises to improve your posture and take the pressure off your back.

Computer user's health poster
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Stay One Step Ahead 

There you go. Now you know some proven ways to counteract the health dangers of sitting all day.

If there’s one takeaway we want you to get out of this article, it’s this: Please, get your head out of the clouds. Sitting is an imminent danger to your health, well-being and longevity.

Carve this into your mind. 

Make a few tweaks to your routine in the interest of your long-term health because that’s all you need.

Photo by freepik / CC BY

Katrina
Author

I'm Katrina McKinnon, founder of McKinnon Group and Small Revolution. I'm using my 20 years' experience in building and operating online businesses to create engaging educational materials that helps others become successful online workers. Find me on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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