Dr Richa Kulkarni explains the hazards of prolonged sitting
Stand rather than sit
According to the Institute of Medicine and Public Health, prolonged sitting at one place results in multiple risks for the human body. It advises against sitting at one place for a longer time either in front of the television or computer or driving a car. Prolonged sitting increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, Type 2 Diabetes and obesity. For adults with Type 2 Diabetes, it is also related to poor glucose management.
The reason behind this increased level of disorders is the immobility of the body. Our body is made to move and lack of movement causes our body to fail us. Inventions and innovations over the last century that were designed to reduce the amount of physical work are counterproductive because they prevent us from sufficiently moving our body. The muscle activity needed for even minute movements of the body, such as standing or even walking, triggers important processes related to the breakdown of fats and sugar. Prolonged sitting hampers these processes and increases your health risks.
Ultimately movement is extremely necessary to the body, even if it is in small amounts.
It allows your metabolism to remove glucose from your bloodstream and reduce fat levels in your blood, both reduces the insulin resistance. Body movements matter because regular physical activity can:
- aid in weight loss and weight maintenance
- improve cardio-respiratory fitness improve cholesterol and blood pressure levels
- aid in glucose management
- help prevent conditions like Diabetes,
- heart disease, stroke and a number of cancers
A 2003 study in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that there was 40 per cent reduced risk of death in people with Diabetes who walked at least two hours a week and lower still for those who walked either more, or more vigorously.
Ideally everyone, not just people with risk of developing Diabetes, should exercise for 30 minutes and also do some light activity like standing and walking. Along with the movement, hydration is of utmost importance. Sedentary lifestyle causes hydration level to decrease and causes dehydration which leads to multiple problems like cramps in the lower limbs, swelling in the feet etc.
- Walk to work, if possible
- Walk an extra lap or two around the shopping mall before you go to the billing desk
- Use the stairs instead of an elevator
- Parking your car a couple of spots farther away and walk to reach your destination
- Use a simple, easy-to-use pedometer which can be worn every day. This helps keep score of your daily step counts
- Wear amply cushioned socks from reliable brands, which are well-padded in areas with the most impact and friction
- Buy shoes in the late afternoon or evening as fluid in the feet tends to build over the course of the day
It is essential to drink at least 3 litres of water every day for the human body. But for people who have diabetic ketoacidosis, water intake is restricted. It is recommended to consult your doctor before beginning or modifying any exercise regime.
Along with hydration and light movements, people can also perform simple exercises at their workplace which can help them maintain their blood sugar levels. Simple exercises that can be done at the desk include:
- Push-ups against the wall
- Marching in place
- Chair twisting to improve lower back pain and stiffness
- Arm curls with simple weights like water bottles
- Leg curls
- Shoulder stretches like forward and upward shoulder stretch
The American Diabetes Association recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity per week. Swimming is a great way to keep fit. This includes at least two days of strength training sessions and two sessions aimed at improving balance and flexibility – if you are still at risk. After every 40 minutes of sitting, a few minutes of light activity is recommended throughout the day.
People believe that one hour at the gym is sufficient, but actually it’s not. According to one study, high levels of moderate-intensity exercises – that’s about 60 to 70 minutes per day of something like brisk walking or swimming – reduce the health risks associated with prolonged sitting, but they do not eliminate them. So, moderate-intensity exercises alone are not sufficient to offset the hazards of non-stop sitting. It is equally necessary to stay active and moving throughout the day.
Considering everything, standing and other light physical activity along with moderate-intensity exercises are essential, if you lead a sedentary lifestyle. After all, people who are physically active are happier, more satisfied, get less sick, have a better quality of life and tend to do more in life.
Dr Richa Kulkarni is a consultant Physiotherapist.