What is sedentary occupation? Many of us mistakenly believe that the term “sedentary” refers to people who do not exercise. Scientists now use this term to describe behaviors, which belong to a distinct class, and which is unrelated to lack of exercise. One of the major contributors to the ill effects of sedentary lifestyle is the “couch potato” effect.
We consider ourselves active enough, for we spend some time from our daily schedule exercising. Most of us spend the day sitting at a desk at work, then return home to sit in our comfortable armchairs or in front of the PC. People who have online jobs and work from home have similar lifestyles, or in their case the hours of sitting are longer. We tend to ignore warnings about sustained sitting in poor postures because we do not see the ill effects immediately. Sadly, the threat is very real, and once the damage is done, it is nearly impossible to undo.
The ill effects of sedentary behavior is not only limited to the workplace. During off hours and leisure times, the posture we assume during seating will also be a contributing factor. The negative health effects then become cumulative and in the end, irreparable damage is done to our bodies. The most common health issues that can arise from poor sitting postures include obesity, heart disease, diabetes and in extreme but rare cases some types of cancers. The physiological consequences are only slowly being unraveled.
In a recent animal study, it has been shown that restricting the movement of the animals for prolonged periods of times lead to the development of unhealthy cellular changes in their muscles. The animals showed signs of insulin resistance and higher levels of fatty acid in their blood. Researchers now believe that these changes are brought about by the lack of muscle contractions. These findings suggests that if your muscles are unused for sustained periods of times they change in subtle fashion and your risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes will increase significantly.
In addition to having negative impacts on metabolic processes in the body, sedentary behavior has damaging effects on the spinal cord. The spinal cord gets so much burden due to bad posture while being seated, and long, motionless hours of sitting, that the damage accumulates over time and soon, this becomes chronic. The back stoops as back muscles are exhausted. Lumbar (lower back) and cervical (neck) regions of the spine sustain the most damage. When the cervical spine is affected, the blood flow to the brain is impeded. This can cause headaches, dizziness, tinnitus (ear noises, including ringing in the ears), vision and memory impairment.
Some people tend to believe that regular exercising will prevent the harmful effects of this condition. In an article published in the New York Times, it states “regular workout sessions do not appear to fully undo the effects of prolonged sitting”. There is still a lot of research to be done in this field to fully understand the mechanisms by which prolonged sitting and sedentary lifestyle affects us and find cures and treatments for these effects. For the time being, there are certain things that you can do to avoid or minimize the risks associated with sedentary lifestyle. Most importantly, give yourself a break as often as you can. Use every opportunity you get, to stand up from your chair and move about for a while.
Sitting is inescapable for most of us, especially if we have a desk job. The best approach in preventing the ill effects of prolonged sitting will be to choose ergonomics over reduced costing. Ergonomics helps design the work place, including seating and devices in the work environment to fit the human body. It involves sitting in a reclined position, choosing chairs with armrests, which reduce pressure on the vertebral discs in your spinal column.
Correct pose while sitting can be achieved by permanently changing the bad sitting posture that you are so accustomed to. Since keeping the knees close together makes you more prone to “slumping,” choose a chair that is wide enough to keep your knees apart. Go for a chair, that will provide proper back support so that the body is kept in an upright position. In addition, keep your head and body straight while you are sitting. Almost all posture related spinal disorders are avoidable. All you need is an understanding of the situation and proactively making a decision rather than wait until all the damage is done.