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Prolonged sitting is today's most pressing workplace health issue

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Prolonged sitting has been coined the ‘new smoking’ relative to work place health. The modern workforce whether in the office, on the road or working from home spend the majority of the work day sitting.

In addition to contributing to low back pain and bad posture, numerous medical research studies have linked chronic prolonged bouts of sitting to increased risk of several significant health conditions including: diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, metabolic syndrome and even cancer. Fortunately the solution is simple, move more and sit less.

Prolonged sitting is one of the worst and most overlooked habits, with repercussions that include:

  • Reduced metabolic function
  • Decreased circulation
  • Shortening of hip flexor muscles resulting in low back pain
  • Compression of spine and key nerves effecting back and legs
  • Poor posture which can lead to hunched shoulders and back

The health impacts of prolonged sitting are caused primarily by disrupted metabolic functions that relate to vascular health. Dr. Hidde Van der Ploeg, of the University of Sydney School of Public Health cites increased plasma triglyceride levels, decreased HDL (good cholesterol) and decreased insulin sensitivity as repercussions of prolonged sitting.

Human bodies were designed for movement not a sedentary lifestyle. The muscle activity needed for standing, walking and other simple movement triggers important processes related to the breakdown of fats and sugars while stimulating circulation, digestion and brain function. When you sit these processes slow down and when you’re actively moving you kick the processes back into action.

A Swedish research study reported in the British Journal of Sports Medicine indicates a woman’s risk of metabolic syndrome, a precursor to diabetes and heart disease, increases 26% with every extra hour of sitting. The negative effects of sitting apply even for people who otherwise exercise. Gym rats and activity enthusiasts still need to be concerned about sitting and incorporate movement throughout the day.

While the issue of prolonged sitting exists both in and out of the workplace, the American fast paced work culture of long hours, tight deadlines and expectations of immediate responses promotes an environment that's not conducive to moving.

American office workers often work through their lunches or order in, and use email or phone to interact with local colleagues instead of walking to talk in person. Technology has contributed greatly to increasingly sedentary lifestyles. It now takes thought, creativity and a little effort to infuse basic movement into the day.

Getting up and moving every 60-90 minutes for as little as 1-3 minutes can counterbalance the negative effects of prolonged sitting. Walking, stretching, body weight exercises, any simple movement has a profound impact. It only takes a minute of movement to improve your health, increase energy and reduce risk of chronic disease.

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