How much time do you spend sitting? Count it all - work time, TV time, driving time, sitting around the dining room table time - ALL of it! Wow, right? We spend a heck of a lot of time on our butts. Then, when we want to relax, we "just want to sit down!" This might be the least effective way to get what we need and deserve after a long, stressful day. Some movement or activity might better serve the body and the mind. Summer is the perfect time to make some changes and feel the way you deserve to feel!
Mayo Clinic says that too much sitting is linked to some pretty serious health concerns. Now, a link isn't direct causation, but why not pay attention, if you can do something about it and feel great at the same time? Too much sitting is linked to the risk of cardiovascular disease which makes sense - the heart is a muscle and needs some exercise to be at it's strongest. Too much sitting increases the risk of cancer. Not exactly sure why on that one, but some good theories are that sitting decreases the effectiveness of the immune system, increases exposure to hormone and neuro-transmitter combinations that aren't healthy, and/or increases weight around the middle. In medicine, this new phenomenon addressing the amount of sitting we do is sometimes known as "sitting disease" and is studied as inactivity physiology.
There's a metabolic aspect to all of this sitting that just isn't good for us. Long periods of sitting, cause slower circulation and less calorie use. Leg muscles and gluteus muscles work when we stand, so even standing still is better for circulation and calorie use. Metabolically, the fat burning enzymes turn way down the more we sit. In addition, those sugars you ingest are not used up. Then, we are looking at weight gain, diabetes and a general increase in risk factors for heart disease and cancer.
Not to mention our lack of core strength and spinal health that comes with sitting. Those psoas (a big group of muscles connecting the upper body to the lower body) and hamstring muscles, are getting weak and in this case they usually tighten up causing back pain and hip pain. The amount of back and hip pain being reported to doctors has increased 3x in the last decade!
What's needed is not a trip to the gym for a workout 2-3 times a week, but an every day overall increase in movement and decrease in sitting. Standing, walking, a bit of stretching here and there can go a long way toward changing your health. How does a 60 minute workout combat the effects of 9-10 hours (for most of more!) of sitting? It can't. So, keep your workouts or even increase them, if you can, but also add some breaks from sitting throughout the day.
It's summertime, so this is easy right?! Take a break regularly from your desk and just walk around the block or the building. Instead of sending an email to a co-worker, get up and go to his/her desk. If you have more flexibility in your day, schedule seated tasks for an hour, then switch it up and run some errands, go for a walk with the dog, etc. Every time you are on the phone, stand up. You get the picture, right?
When you get home for the evening, instead of relaxing with a cocktail, take a walk, go through the garden and do some light weed pulling, walk across the street and chat with the neighbors, take the dog on a short walk rather than just letting him out into the yard. How about getting on your bike? Commute to work, run errands on your bike (some communities have bike benefit programs that give discounts for bikers), or just head out to an outdoor concert or event on your bike. Go out to see the sunset. Is the moon full? How about a moonlit walk? Or, even better a kayak or canoe paddle?
I know this seems counter-intuitive. In order to relax, I need to just sit, right? No. I guarantee, your daily energy and ability to tolerate the stressors of the day will improve! Your sleep will improve. Your metabolism will improve. Your health will improve. All this improvement will cause you to feel better and look better which is really what you deserve! You deserve to be happy, energized, active, and to enjoy life. Getting up and off your butt is one of the best ways to do it!