The Dangers of Sitting

Recent scientific studies have shown that sitting for long periods, even for two hours, is unhealthy.   According to the Mayo Clinic, any extended sitting–whether behind a desk at work, in front of a TV or in a wheelchair–can be linked with a number of health concerns, including obesity and metabolic syndrome, increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist, and abnormal cholesterol levels, as well as increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease and cancer.

What’s more,  an important finding is that moderate physical activity does not cancel out the ill effects of too much sitting. In other words, even if a person exercises for 30 minutes a day on most days of the week, it doesn’t counteract the negative effects of all the other hours of sitting.

The solution is less sitting and more moving.  Experts recommend standing and moving every 30 minutes to an hour.  The University of New Mexico offers some physical activity suggestions.  While at work you might consider these options:

  • Stand up and walk around the office every 30 minutes
  • Stand up and move every time the person needs to get some water
  • Walk to the farthest bathroom in the worksite facility when going to the restroom (if multiple bathrooms are an option)
  • Always stand and/or walk around room when talking on the telephone
  • Consider getting a standing workstation where the client can stand and work on the computer (most of these work desks can be raised and lowered so if the user becomes fatigued from too much standing there is an option to lower and sit in a chair or on a physioball to continue work)
  • Consider doing a 5-minute walk break with every coffee break
  • Don’t email office colleagues; walk to their desks to communicate with them

Or if you’re watching TV or reading, consider some of these options:

  • Get up and move during every commercial
  • Take a 5-minute walk break every 30 minutes
  • Get a stationary piece of cardiovascular exercise equipment and use it for several minutes each half-hour of TV viewing or reading
  • Stand up and do some easy (i.e., not strenuous) lunges or squats at least once per half hour
  • Stand up and do some alternating leg balance exercises at least once per half hour
  • Stand up and move for the opening segment of each TV show
  • At the end of reading every 4, 6 or 8 pages get up to walk around the room or house

For someone using a wheelchair, it might not be possible to do many of these standing/walking exercises, so more creativity is called for.  If you live locally in the San Francisco Bay Area, the folks at BORP (Bay Area Outreach and Recreation Program) are experts at adaptive exercise. They can help create an exercise routine that works for each individual body.

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