Most of us are aware that things like smoking, eating junk food and drinking too much is bad for our health – but did you know that sitting down could be a real threat to our health too? Those of us who work in an office find ourselves sitting for the majority of the working day and there is growing concern about the damage this sedentary lifestyle is having.
Sitting still for long periods of time can lead to a variety of issues ranging from slowed brain function and cardiovascular disease to back problems and high blood pressure. With new research from the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy showing that one in five of us work through our lunch breaks every day, it is obvious that this is an issue that needs addressing.
Senior physiotherapist at London Bridge hospital, Lucie Noble encourages people to take a break, even if it is just half an hour,
“One of the key problems of the sedentary lifestyle related to office work is the impact on your metabolism – the way in which you metabolise sugar and fats reduces substantially with inactivity, and this can lead to diabetes, heart disease and obesity.
“It’s not just movement that is important in maintaining weight loss – sitting for long periods of time and general low-activity levels slows down your metabolism and the way that your body breaks down fats and sugars – and that’s when people start storing fat in the abdomen.”
Fat that is stored in the abdomen has been linked to weight gain and high cholesterol, so it is important for people to avoid this. From a musculoskeletal point of view, sitting for long periods of time can weaken core muscles and cause ligaments to be stiff. This can lead to pain and injury if left untreated.
How do we avoid this?
As most of us are unable to quit work in favour of something more active, we need to find a way of staying active in the office. While posture is important, Lucie says it is even more important to keep moving – even if this just means fidgeting in your seat. Changing positions will keep muscles active and will help you avoid straining your neck and back. Other tips include:
- Stand up when you take phone calls and, if possible, walk around the office while you’re on the phone.
- Take a break at lunch – stimulate your senses and go for a walk to boost creativity and health.
- Put something you use regularly (like a printer) at the other side of the room so you have to get up and walk around to use it.
If you are suffering the ill effects of sitting, you may benefit from physiotherapy. To find a physiotherapist near you, please visit our physiotherapy fact-sheet.
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