Over the last few years, numerous studies have been released which point to our sedentary lives as a huge problem for our health. But we didn’t really know just how bad it was until recently, with the discovery that sitting down all day in an office can shave years off our lives.
People who spend their lives sitting down face higher risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, obesity and muscular-skeletal disorders, even if you regularly work out. This is relevant for approximately 86% of American workers, and people around the wold are also having health problems from sitting and staring at screens.
Personally, I’m a sloucher. I’ve always had terrible posture, and even when I’m standing I tend to slouch my shoulders and lean back and stick my stomach out (super attractive). Because these muscles are already weak, I think this makes it easier for me to become a sloucher when I’m working hard and “in the zone”. It also doesn’t help that my laptop is usually far lower than my eye-level, meaning that I’m continually holding my neck down and staring into the screen.
It turns out that sitting can actually make it harder to concentrate, since when you’re sitting and slouching, your spine is cur ing which makes it harder for your lungs to expand. This means you’re not taking nice, big, full breaths, cutting down on the amount of oxygen getting to your brain- leading to difficulty concentrating.
Sitting is also really bad for your neck. I’ve noticed that over the last few months I’ve had a really painful neck, particularly when I try to move it from side to side. Kenneth Hansraj is a spinal surgeon who published a study in 2014 which looked at the impact that looking down at a screen has on your neck. It turns out that even when you’ve got great posture, you’re standing perfectly straight and doing everything right, your neck is still balancing and carrying 10-12 pounds of weight as it supports your head.
As we bend our necks forward, the amount of weight its supporting increases, and it can be holding 60 pounds by the time you’re at a 60-degree angle- the weight of a dog.
I find this extremely worrying, since I often have my laptop on my lap as I’m typing away. I’ve been trying to lift it, but since I still need to be able to type away, there’s little that I can do.
I’m also someone who likes to have their feet up. Since I can never find a small stool, I end up sitting with my legs up on chairs in front of me, which puts a lot of weight in my pelvis and is also probably shortening my hip flexors.
Reading about all of the health problems associated with sitting down all day has been a wake up call. While I’m only in my 20s, if I’m already feeling the effects of a relatively sedentary lifestyle (and I workout 3-4 times a week), what will happen when I’m in my 30s, 40s, and 50s? I’m glad that I’m thinking about this now so that I can make some serious changes.
Luckily, Furniture At Work is currently running an #OfficeYoga campaign, and will be making a video with some great poses we can use to stretch out our muscles and get up out of our chairs while we’re working throughout the day. I’m excited to learn how I can reduce the huge impact that sitting down for a living has on my body.
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