Did you know that the average working person in the UK takes circa 6 sickness days per year? However, these absences are not always related to bugs, coughs and colds. For some, these sickness days can relate to other things such as mental health, back problems and other musculoskeletal problems. Those who work in office jobs cannot escape being impacted by health issues. Sitting constitutes physical inactivity and sitting for too long each day or on most days implies having a sedentary lifestyle.
Prolonged sitting reduces your energy expenditure. This imbalance between energy intake and expenditure leads to an unhealthy weight gain and obesity. Obesity, in turn, raises the risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure. Sitting for long periods is thought to slow the metabolism, which affects the body's ability to regulate blood sugar, blood pressure and break down body fat.
The muscles in your legs and hips (such as the glutes, hamstrings, and quadriceps) are the major muscles you make use of when you sit. When you sit for too long, you overstretch and strain these muscles which can cause them to become tight and short. As these muscles become inflexible, it can cause issues for your hip joints and back such as nerve impingement. Spending a long time at a desk can also lead to neck and shoulder pain if good posture is not maintained. Sitting at a desk for hours at a time can also lead to lower back pain caused by misalignment of the spine - the most common work related problem.
A sedentary lifestyle also appears to have a negative impact on mental well-being. The cause of this varies between each person, but is likely due to the stresses of work and the limited release of endorphins due to inactivity.
The UK Chief Medical Officers' Physical Activity Guidelines report recommends breaking up long periods of sitting time with activity for just 1 to 2 minutes. Some examples of which are:
- stand on the train or bus
- take the stairs and walk up escalators
- set a reminder to get up every 30 minutes
- place a laptop on a box or similar to work standing
- stand or walk around while on the phone
- take a walk break every time you take a coffee or tea break
- walk to a colleague's desk instead of emailing or calling
- swap some TV time for more active tasks or hobbies
Although the above are good examples of how to get moving during the busy working day, we also need to spend more of our free time being active.
Exercise can help to reduce muscle tension caused by poor sitting habits, increase energy expenditure and release those feel good endorphins. Soft tissue therapy can also work to help alleviate muscle pain – either through Sports & Remedial Massage or through Myofascial Release (a form of soft tissue therapy that focuses on releasing the body's most flexible yet durable structures by improving posture and restoring balance to create change within the body).
Many people do not meet the minimum physical activity guidelines and are at risk of developing health issues from spending too much time being sedentary. Take action now to improve your physical and mental health.
Lee & the Team