A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic Health System

Can sitting too much hurt your health?

Man stretching his arms and neck at office deskIt’s time to get off your butt at work, and not only because the boss said so. The reason is simple:

Sitting too long can be a contributing factor to health issues, says Dr. Michael McGill, a cardiologist at Marshfield Clinic.

“Moderation is key to everything,” he said. “So moderate exercise is good and beneficial and lack thereof is harmful. If you have a sedentary job, you need to have an exercise program or modify your work day to incorporate movement.”

A lifetime of sitting is a risk

A sedentary lifestyle can lead to weight gain and less efficient metabolism, both contributing factors for obesity and problems with high cholesterol, high blood pressure or diabetes.

Sitting too much or exercising too little won’t be the only thing that leads to these kinds of health problems, but it will add to other risk factors you may have, such as smoking or having a family history that includes heart disease,” McGill said. “Adding exercise and more movement to your day is one preventive measure you can take that can provide lifelong benefits and reverse some health problems you may already experience.”

Get moving

Stand up every 20 minutes and if you can, move around for two minutes before sitting again, recommends Laura Stoffel, a nurse and fitness instructor at Marshfield Clinic.

“Our bodies were made to move,” Stoffel said. “Our venous system and heart function are enhanced by movement, and so is our lymphatic system – our body’s drainage system. We need our bodies to move to make them work efficiently.”

To help add movement to your workday she suggests:

  • Talking on the phone while standing or safely standing on one leg.
  • Reading emails while marching in place. (You may need to raise your keyboard and monitor to make this more comfortable.)
  • Doing 10 chair squats every 20 minutes.
  • Practicing good posture when you sit by tucking in your chin, moving your shoulders back and straightening your spine.
  • Periodically turning your head and stretching your neck from side to side.

At home, find opportunities to move every 20 minutes, such as marching in place or moving during television commercials or after reading a chapter in a book.

Small changes over time can help

“Don’t underestimate these small changes,” Stoffel said. “Incorporating more movement throughout your day will have positive effects that increase your energy and ease stiffness and achiness. Exercise is healthy for your brain and can help you think more clearly.”

Is your office chair killing you? You can prevent long-term health problems, follow this advice for office chair ergonomics.

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