Are You Sitting Comfortably?

18/09/2012 17:42 BST | Updated 18/11/2012 10:12 GMT

Are you sitting comfortably?

Then MOVE!

We all know that we should be moving our bodies more, but did you know that sitting down could be slowly killing you? A recent study published in the British Medical Journal Open concluded that "...In conclusion, the results of this study indicate that extended sitting time and television viewing may have the potential to reduce life expectancy..."

The analyses indicated that population sitting for more than three hours a day could shorten your life by two years and watching TV for more than two hours could increase that by a further 1.38 years. So how many hours do you sit on your bum every day?

Many of us nowadays do indeed hit the gym, or head out for a jog three to four times every week, and you might have been lead to believe that this alone is enough to take care of your cardiovascular health improve your longevity. But, it has now been proven that it is not only the hour of exercise that you do each day, but what you do with the other 23 hours that also counts.

In the recent past, the majority of people were manually active for many hours each day: working in the fields, scrubbing the floors, man-handling laundry, walking to school or work with an evening of dancing for evening fun. Now we drive cars and tractors, use washing machines and microwaves, have pre-chopped, pre-peeled food delivered to the doorstep and watch dancing on the telly! Our modern, convenient lives have made us physically lazy and weak. We are slaves to our e mail and mobile phones and are often too mentally exhausted at the end of a long day sitting to do anything else but sit!

The negative effects of sitting:

Sitting causes the muscles on the front of your body tend to become short and tight and those on the rear of your body become elongated and weak causing postural defects such as inwardly rotated shoulders, a hunched upper back, stiff hips and lower back and weak abdominals. The result of this can be a bad back, neck and joint pain, premature aging and stiffness.

Personally, my career changed in recent years from mostly very physical personal training (covering a minimum of 15,000 steps each day) to spending several hours each day desk-bound and typing. The result, a significant injury (shoulder) for the first time in my life and a back which now demands that I stretch it several times a day! The worrying thing is that just as your body will adapt positively to repeated exercises by becoming stronger or fitter, it will also adapt to the 'sitting exercise' by becoming weaker and fatter!

Your muscles are designed to work like a blood pumping system. With each contraction they help to 'squeeze' the blood back to the heart from your lower body. If you are sedentary, you are losing this vital effect inhibiting good circulation.

Effective Solutions:

If you spend most of your day sitting, then try to build in as many 5-10 minute blocks of movement each hour as possible. Park your car a block away from the office and walk 5 minutes. Get off the train or bus a stop early. Stand up for telephone calls and lift and lower on tip-toe while you talk. Try using a bathroom on another floor so you have to go up and down stairs. NEVER use the elevator or lift. Walk the kids to school. Perform all of your resistance exercises standing (where possible), talk to your company about the possibility of standing meetings, or adaptable desks which can be raised for standing or lowered to sit.

One of the fittest men on the planet, Ultra Runner Dean Karnazes told me that he built himself a special standing desk at home so that he never spend idle time sitting. (Check out his book Run! 26.2 Stories of Blisters and Bliss to get you motivated). Another top motivational tip is to get yourself a pedometer to measure exactly how active/inactive you really are. (The British Heart Foundation recommends 10,000 steps per day to stay healthy.

The key to health, fitness and longevity is really quite simple; move more and eat less (and I am heading straight out for a walk!)