Health and Fitness

Don't Just Sit There

The New York Times recently published an article called Is Sitting a Lethal Activity? The article discussed the negative health effects repetitive sitting has on our bodies. This article really struck a chord with me. Before my conversion from tech to Wellness Ambassador, I had clocked countless hours in Silicon Valley corporate conference rooms and logged many miles sitting in airplane seats. I have lived with back pain, tight hamstrings and hips and a set of weak, flat glutes. I have also slept restlessly at night tossing and turning while my body attempted to release some of the tension from my daily inactivity and resulting muscle tightness. Little did I know my symptoms were just those I could feel immediately. There were many more risks to my lifestyle lying under the surface.

Sitting can really take its toll on your body. According to Curtis Cramblett, a Silicon Valley Licensed Physical Therapist (LPT) and a USA Expert Cycling Coach, “The effects of prolonged sitting can be split into about 3 phases. In the short term, the nerves that cause the glute to contract start to fall asleep. In the medium term, those nerves become harder and harder to excite and can become sluggish. And in the long term, your body accepts sitting rather than standing as its “normal” position. Once this happens, the body can actively prevent glute nerves from firing. Consequently, the glute muscle gradually loses tone.”

There are also a host of health risks associated with sitting. According to the New York Times article, “Your calorie-burning rate immediately plunges to about one per minute, a third of what it would be if you got up and walked. Insulin effectiveness drops within a single day and the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes rises. So does the risk of being obese.”

Think about how many hours you realistically sit per day. At your desk, watching television, in your car, hunched over your computer, and at a 2-hour lunch. Don’t forget the hours on your flight to Paris or your last business meeting that ran over. How do you feel after a long flight or a day of sitting?

Counteracting our chair-laden lifestyles has been the focus of my work for the past 3 years. My recent project at my company Whole Motion Fitness has been working with young employees at one of the top tech companies in the valley. The negative effects of sitting are starting earlier with this generation than with baby boomers. Our children have grown up with tech tools in hand and this lifestyle is showing up very early in their posture and muscle tone. By altering a few habits and implementing some simple exercises, my clients have seen fantastic results.

Not sure where to start? Get up out of your seat and move. Make a goal of standing up every 20 minutes and walking around. When I end a long flight the first thing I do when I get to my hotel is perform a few basic exercises to re-fire my muscles that have shut down. Based on my work and at the request of my clients, I have created a downloadable app for both iPad and iPhone to help counteract the effect of repetitive sitting and re-fire your brain and body connections. On my website you will also find a sample exercise and my playlist to use to learn to wake up your body.

Sitting for long periods on planes or at desks is unavoidable for many of us, but the effects don’t have to be dire. Small changes to your daily habits can make a big difference for your health.

Sandra Hahamian