What it does to your body sitting in front of the computer 10 hours a day
September, with the return to work after the holidays, means for many of us a return to routine and long office hours sitting in front of a computer. Spending a minimum of eight hours a day in front of the screen working, to which we have to add a couple more hours watching television or playing video games, can give us an idea of why sedentary lifestyle is a growing problem in our society.
Are you one of those who does not get out of the chair all day? We tell you what are the consequences that this can have on your body and your health and what you can do to solve it.
Hours and hours sitting: how it affects your body
Spending a lot of time sitting, either working or in our leisure time doing activities that we like (such as watching a movie on television or playing a video console) directly affects the quality of our health, increasing the risk of suffering Certain diseases.Spending more than six hours sitting a day predisposes us to suffer more serious diseases (Spanish Society of Cardiology)
A 2014 study published in the Spanish Journal of Cardiology already concluded that spending more than six hours sitting a day (something that occurs very frequently in most of the population) is related to having a higher body mass index, a greater perimeter waist (more important even than BMI).
Sedentary lifestyle also favors increased insulin resistance (which can increase the risk of metabolic syndrome and other diseases such as diabetes) and the fact of having higher blood pressure (in the guide to prevent cardiovascular diseases of the American Heart Association It is recommended to avoid a sedentary lifestyle and regular physical exercise to avoid problems related to the heart and circulatory system).
All these factors are related to what is the greatest epidemic that we are experiencing today: obesity and being overweight. And it does not only occur in adults: in Spain 41% of children suffer from either of these two conditions, and we cannot forget that they spend long hours at school sitting in front of their desks.
A study recently published in the Annals of Internal Medicine (September, 2017) tells us about the relationship between sedentary lifestyle and increased risk of death in older adults. In this study, it is related to a greater risk of death not only the fact of spending many hours sitting, but also the fact of not taking short breaks during that long time we spent sitting.
Spending many hours sitting and the eternal back pain
One of the pains that people who spend a lot of time sitting throughout the day report the most is back pain in the lower back, better known as low back pain. Why does this pain occur? To begin with because the sitting position is not the natural one of the human being: our body is designed to move, not to spend eight hours a day (hopefully) sitting in front of a screen.
Our spine, with its curves, is designed to support the weight of our body. When sitting for a long time, in addition to the spine losing its main function, we usually do it in a posture that is not correct, losing the normal curvature of the lower back. The lumbar spine by nature presents an inward lordosis or curvature, while the most typical posture when sitting, especially if we spend a long time without getting up, is to throw the shoulders forward and the lumbar area back, creating a convex curve in concave place.
Spending a lot of time sitting, in addition, makes the muscles of the central body lose its function of collaborating in maintaining a correct posture (you already have the back of the chair that does that without any effort) and certain groups are shortened Muscles like hamstrings or psoas (not surprisingly, shortening of psoas is one of the most common pathologies in people who spend many hours sitting).
Can spending a long time without getting up from the chair and the consequent shortening of these muscle groups influence back pain that is so characteristic of sedentary people? Of course: we must bear in mind that our body is made up of muscle chains that interact with each other, not isolated muscles. What happens in one part of our body has consequences in our entire organism.
Can we fix it with one hour of gym a day?
Health problems, overweight, obesity and sedentary lifestyle are concepts that generally go hand in hand.And is that sedentary lifestyle, the fact of spending most of the day without moving from our chair, is another of the great evils of our generation. We may think that going for a walk for half an hour a day or going to the gym for an hour three days a week may not suffer the consequences of spending so many hours sitting, but is this enough?
Training an hour a day does not mean that we are not sedentary: daily physical activity also matters
There is a big difference between sports practice (which we can do a few times a week, which has an objective in itself and that should be guided by professionals in the sector) and daily physical activity: it will be useless to spend an hour a day in the gym if we spend the remaining 23 hours of the day without moving sitting in a chair.
It is necessary that to reverse the effects of spending so many hours without moving, we integrate daily physical activity as one of our habits throughout the day.
The daily life of a sedentary person
Think for a moment about what a normal day in your life is like: you get out of bed, have breakfast and go to work. To get there you will surely use public transport (where, if you are lucky, you can sit down) or your own car (you also drive sitting down, obviously). You arrive at work and sit in your chair until lunchtime: give him about four or five hours of work in the morning. You go out to eat and, obviously, you sit at the table: one more hour sitting until you return to the office and take up positions in front of the computer again, another three or four hours more.
To return home you sit back on the bus, subway or car and, when you have finally arrived home, you decide to go to the gym for an hour to de-stress. You come home at dinner time and get ready to watch a couple of chapters of your favorite series from the sofa: that can last between an hour and a half and two hours. The day ends and, tired, you get into bed.
Three hours on the move compared to the remaining 21 hours sitting or lying down: the bill comes out to pay us
How long have you been moving? At most you can count about three hours by adding the hour of exercise in the gym and other trips. Three hours of movement compared to the remaining 21 hours in which you are sitting or sleeping. Viewed as a whole, it almost makes you dizzy.
That hour you spend in the gym cannot compensate for all the time you spend sitting throughout the day: it is necessary to integrate physical activity at different times of our day to day.
What can I do to avoid the consequences of spending a lot of time sitting?
Becoming aware that we need to move more in our day to day is the first step towards a life away from sedentary lifestyle. The truth is that we can do many things to be more active in our day to day, but it is also a good idea to implement them little by little so that they become part of our lifestyle and do not become just specific changes that we carry out for a month.
Start the day with a little exercise: starting to move from early in the morning will not take much time (about ten minutes are enough) and can bring you great benefits such as the production of endorphins from early in the day and the relaxation of your muscles after eight hours of night rest. Set your alarm ten minutes early and spend that time doing some mobility exercises for your joints or a few repetitions of the Yoga sun salutation: you don't need much space and your body will thank you.
Walk to work or use an alternative means of transport such as a bicycle: a bicycle can be a good investment if we talk about urban mobility. We can also choose to use bicycles for rent by time such as Bicimad in Madrid, Bilbon Bizi in Bilbao or Sevici in Seville. If you prefer to walk, you can get off the subway or bus a couple of stops before your destination to add steps in your daily life (do you reach the 10,000 recommended daily steps?).
Choose the stairs in front of the elevator: if you go to work by subway, a good gesture to start moving a little more is to leave out the escalators and opt for the traditional ones. Also at home or at work, say goodbye to the elevator and choose to go up the stairs, even if it's only a couple of floors (if you have to go up to the sixth floor, maybe you want to start walking up to the second floor only, for later increase the floors). This will help you improve the circulation of your legs and do some aerobic exercise.
That your smartwatch or your mobile be your allies: the Spanish Society of Cardiology recommends that we get up from our chair approximately every two hours to take a short walk that we can invest in going to talk to that colleague who owes us a report (instead of call him on the phone) or go for a healthy snack mid-morning. If you are one of those who is completely abstracted once you sit in the chair, a good idea may be to set an alarm on your watch or on your mobile that tells you it is time to move. If you have a smartwatch, most of them have a "motion reminder" feature that invites you to move from time to time.
Maintain a correct posture while sitting: if you are going to spend a lot of time sitting, unless it is in a good position. Make sure that your back is straight (always respecting the natural curvature of your spine) and resting on the back of the chair. The height of the chair should allow you to rest both feet on the ground (avoid crossing one leg over the other) and keep your knees at an angle close to ninety degrees.
Do some stretching in your own desk chair: you don't have to go to the gym to loosen up your muscles, you can do it at your own desk. Interlace your hands and stretch your arms pushing forward to stretch the upper area of your back, and perform mobilizations of the neck (slowly so as not to get dizzy) to the sides and drawing circles to loosen the area. To improve leg circulation, it is best to get up for a short walk.
In your free time, take the opportunity to move more: the culture of "series marathons on weekends" is getting stronger and stronger, and it is something that many of us love. If you are one of those who stay glued to the sofa chaining episodes, at least get up before the next one begins and take the opportunity to move and stretch. So, in addition, you will change your posture on the sofa and you will not let it "catch you".
Of course, integrating physical exercise into our daily routine and eating a healthy diet will also be very helpful in avoiding the consequences that spending long hours sitting can have on our body in the short and long term.
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