Is Sitting the New Smoking?

Have you heard the saying – Sitting is the New Smoking? The phrase highlights the potential health risks associated with prolonged sitting and sedentary behavior. Similar to the risks associated with smoking, research suggests that spending too much time sitting down can have serious health consequences, including but not limited to:

  • Increased risk of chronic diseases – Prolonged sitting has been linked to an increased risk of chronic conditions such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and certain types of cancer.
  • Musculoskeletal issues – Sitting for long periods can lead to muscle imbalances, poor posture, and musculoskeletal problems such as back pain, neck pain, and shoulder tension.
  • Reduced metabolic rate – Sitting for extended periods can lead to a decrease in metabolic rate, which can contribute to weight gain and metabolic disorders.
  • Poor circulation – Sitting for long periods can impair blood circulation, leading to issues such as swollen ankles, varicose veins, and increased risk of blood clots.
  • Mental health impact – Sedentary behavior has been linked to an increased risk of anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues.

To mitigate these risks, it’s important to incorporate regular movement breaks into your day, such as standing up, taking short walks, and stretching.

Stretching offers many physical benefits to your body. According to experts, stretching daily at work can increase blood flow to your muscles, improve posture, increase productivity, boost energy levels, and relieve muscle discomfort. In addition to the physical benefits, stretching can also help with our mental wellness. Stretching has been shown to increase serotonin levels — the hormone that helps stabilize our mood, reduce stress, and overall makes us feel good — which causes a decrease in depression and anxiety.

Here are some great stretches you can do at your desk:

  • Neck Stretch – Sit tall and lower your chin to your chest. Then slowly roll your ear to the right until it’s directly over your shoulder. You’ll feel a stretch in the left side of your neck. Hold for 30 seconds then switch to the other side.
  • Wrist Stretch – Sitting with your elbows on your desk and palms together, slowly lower wrists to the desk until you feel a stretch (your elbows will move outward a bit). Be sure to keep your palms together throughout the stretch. Hold 5 to 7 seconds. Relax. Repeat 3 times.
  • Chair Twist – Sit up straight in your chair. Plant your feet on the ground and keep your knees parallel. Slowly twist your upper body to one side (you can use the side or back of your chair to help rotate). Twist on each side and hold for 10 seconds.
  • Seated Figure-4 Stretch – Sit in chair with feet touching the ground, place one foot over the knee, and then gently lean forward. Keep your back straight and lean forward from your hips. You should feel a stretch along the back side of the hip. Hold this position for 20-30 seconds, and then repeat three times. Switch legs and repeat.
  • Shoulder Shrug and Rolls – roll your shoulders front and back, up and down to stretch out muscles in your neck, shoulders, and upper back.

Additionally, engaging in regular exercise and maintaining a healthy lifestyle can help counteract the negative effects of prolonged sitting. Remember, small changes can make a big difference in protecting your overall health.

Need help finding the correct ways to stretch various muscles, or feeling like your stretching routine could use a refresh?

A licensed physiotherapist or chiropractor can help assess your pain points, and how to best address tension or weakness in those areas. Dependent on your massage therapist’s credentials, they may also be able to provide suggestions. If you are enrolled in an extended-benefits plan, you may have coverage for some (or all) of these practitioners. These coverages are generally listed as Paramedical Services.

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