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Reducing The Negative Effects of a Sedentary Lifestyle

24 January 2024

If you're reading this, you're most likely sitting. In fact, if you were writing about the negative effects of sitting, you'd likely be sitting then as well. Ironic, but it's a fact that we have to sit to do most of the things in our lives. In fact, because of how deeply ingrained it is, we don't even realize how much of the time we spend sitting.

From sitting at work to sitting for rest and sitting for meals, our lives are composed of small sections of movement, and much, much larger sections of sitting.

But sitting is bad for us - in fact, some say sitting is the new smoking. From obesity to cardiovascular disease, there is no shortage of problems that long amounts of sitting can cause us in the long-run.

Unfortunately, there isn't a lot we can do to reduce our sitting time. After all, most of us work desk jobs and these require us to sit. So should we sacrifice our health just to get by?

The good news is that we don't necessarily have to do that. While we can't eliminate the negative effects of sitting, we can make some changes in our lives to reduce these effects as much as possible. Let's look at how to reduce the negative effects of a sedentary lifestyle.

Minimizing The Negative Effects of Sitting



Getting Up To Walk

You may not think much of it, but getting up to walk around every once in a while can do a great deal to help reduce the effects of sitting for too long. When you sit for a long time, some muscle groups in our body are put in a position where they aren't active and these become tense and sore. Others can get shortened, and will put us in pain when we eventually stand up.

That's why when you stand after sitting for a long time, you feel woozy all over. Talking breaks to walk around - even if it's just a short break - can do wonders for making sure that the muscles in your body stay active, and thus counter the harms that can come with sitting for long stretches.

This obviously doesn't mean that getting up to make tea can resolve all the problems caused by sitting, but it can help in making sure your muscles stay active and don't become tense. You should try and find every excuse to stand up and break your sitting, even if it's just to talk to a coworker or make a phone call.



Stretching

Stretches are greatly underestimated. When we spend a whole day working, we will understandably get tired and want to relax. This means that the first thing we think of is lying down, when in reality, we should be stretching all that tension and stress out of our body.

There are various stretches we can do, and we don’t have to bring out our yoga mats for them. There are stretches you can do at your desk, and others you can do when you get home. It's always a good idea to take stretch breaks just like you take walk breaks. Just like with walking, your muscles won't stiffen up, and will remain active.



Incorporate Physical Activity Into Your Day

The best way to fight the negative effects of sitting would be to just not sit. However, this is not possible for most of us, and we are required to sit for various reasons. That said, we can try to be more active where the control lies in our hands. As an example, stretch or walk breaks involve physical activity, however small. But these are very minor attempts at movement, and will not do the job of strengthening your body.

Adults are recommended to do at least 30 minutes of moderate activity per day, but because we are lazy and can't be bothered, we tend to think we shouldn't do anything at all. However, something is better than nothing, so incorporating some exercise into your work day is important to combat the risks of sitting for long stretches of time.

Exercising a little bit in the morning can freshen you up and rejuvenate your mind as well, and allow you to have a better, more productive day ahead of you. On the flip side, exercising a bit at night can help tire you out so you can sleep better and feel fresh when you wake up.

The main thing is consistency: don't skip days. If you don't feel like working out, work out less, but do something or the other to make sure you are still getting some physical exercise.

You should also try to incorporate physical activity in other ways, such as walking to work instead of taking the car (if possible).



Adjust Your Workstation

While sitting in any situation can be bad for your health, sitting in a bad workstation can make it worse. It's important for your workstation to be as ergonomic as possible to avoid making the risks of sitting even greater. After all: it's better to at least sit comfortably, in a way that protects your body from pains and aches, than to sit and develop some sort of physical condition.

If your workstation is not ergonomic, you're putting yourself at risk of musculoskeletal disorders, which can be a short term nuisance at best, and a complete handicap at worst. You don't want to risk that, so you should make sure your workstation takes ergonomic practices into account.

For example, your chair shouldn't be too high or too low. Your feet should reach the ground, but your elbows should be bent at a 90 degree angle if you're typing. The chair you use should have appropriate lumbar support to keep your back protected.

Find yourself ergonomic furniture that allows for adjustment based on body type and stature, so that even if you're sitting, these hours are a lot less debilitating.

An even better idea would be to find yourself a standing desk that allows you to switch between sitting and standing, so that your time spent sitting can go further down, without you needing to compromise on your work.



Incorporating Movement As Much As Possible

Again: the only way to eliminate the effects of a sedentary lifestyle is to not have one. In fact, with how much sitting we've already done, we probably can't completely eliminate these effects anyway, even if we were to suddenly switch to a completely active lifestyle.

However, it's true: adding more movement in your day is crucial for reducing the risks that come with sitting. It doesn't have to be anything big - you can take a walk during your lunch break, or do some stretches at scheduled times. You can opt to stand while you drink your post-lunch coffee, instead of sitting at your desk, or you can join a yoga class. Not only do these add movement to your day, they also allow you to develop your social life.

You can also opt for ways to incorporate movement into your work day while working. FlexiSpot's Deskbike V6 Pro is an example of this. This desk bike is an excellent way for you to make sure the time you spend sitting is not wasted away as sedentary. While you'd still technically be sitting, you can pedal away under the desk and give your legs a mild workout.

The bike is very quiet, so you can pedal without worrying about disturbing others while they work. There are also eight different resistance levels for you to get some healthy movement in, no matter what your fitness level is. You can also track the time, distance, calories burned and other metrics.

While the bike will only give you a lower body workout - and that too, not a very intensive one - it is still a lot better than sitting in place without any movement at all. In fact, even the lightest pedaling can make sure your muscles remain active and the muscles at the front of your thighs don't shorten.

While this kind of low-intensity movement is not necessarily enough to fulfill your body's requirements (far from it, in fact), it is still a million times better than simply sitting in one place without any movement at all.

If you keep in mind all of the above and make an effort, you'd likely see the benefits of moving around and being more active in your daily life. While most of us already suffer from some kind of bodily problems caused by sitting, for the ones that don't, it's always better to be safe than sorry.

Make an effort to be more active and reduce the negative effects of sitting, and you'd be able to live a longer and healthier life.