How Sitting For Prolonged Periods Is Stalling Your Metabolic Machinery And What To Do About It

Flickr - Posture - Marcin WicharyTammy McKenzie, Prevent Disease
Waking Times

There are serious consequences that result when the muscular engine sits on ‘idle’ and in long periods in sedentary positions. Prolonged sitting can lead to loss of shoulder motion, chronic pain, walking deficits, neck-related headaches, the inability to exercise, and can literally impede the ability to metabolize fat and sugar, potentially raising the risk for cardiovascular disease.

A common misconception about good posture is that it can be maintained by only doing occasional strength training. Good posture is more than just sitting-up straight and holding your shoulders back, and if you don”t have the muscle strength, you aren”t going to be able to hold that posture for very long.

By maintaining your strength and being consciously aware of your posture, you can maintain proper posture and mobility well into your elder years.

Put simply, the danger in prolonged sitting is that it “stalls the metabolic machinery,” as Dr. James Levine professor of medicine stated. “The body has an exquisitely designed system for trafficking fuels such as carbohydrates and fats.”

  • According to Dr. Levine, this “physiology of inactivity” results in a variety of immediate, undesirable effects. For instance, inactivity impedes the ability to metabolize fat and sugar and it also elevates triglycerides, potentially raising the risk for cardiovascular disease. Prolonged sitting weakens muscles, which can lead to back pain, arthritis and joint problems. Previous research has demonstrated that sitting for long periods suppresses lipase, an enzyme involved in fat metabolism that is produced only when leg muscles flex — low levels are associated with heart disease and other illnesses. Sex hormones, including estrogen and testosterone metabolism, also are affected, Dr. Levine noted, adding that “these impact all aspects of physical and emotional states.”

    Those who sit for long periods have a two fold increase in their risk of diabetes, heart disease and death. Importantly, associations were independent of the amount of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity undertaken, suggesting that even if an individual meets typical physical activity guidelines, their health may still be compromised if they sit for long periods of time throughout the day.

    The following exercises and tips to help you keep your spine healthy:

    1. Evaluate your workstations-A workstation is anywhere that an individual spends a notable amount of time daily and for many of us, our primary workstation is standing or sitting at a desk.

    If you’re sitting, don’t drop a ton of money on an ergonomic chair. Instead, position the chair to provide lumbar, shoulder, and if needed, head support.

    2. Perform daily exercises-regularly exercising the large muscles on the front and back of the thigh, the abdominal muscles, and performing three exercises daily:

    Pelvic Tilt: While sitting, push your pelvis back into the chair, hold it for three seconds and then relax. This tightens and strengthens your abdominal muscles.

    Chin Tucks: Also while sitting, put your pointer finger on your chin and push straight back. Be sure your head isn”t tilted up or down and this exercise will realign your spine and combat forward head position.

    Lean Back: Lastly, most of what we perform at our workstations forces us anterior, so we’re constantly bending forward. To straighten the spine, stand-up, put your hands on your lower back, and lean back. This exercise combats the effects of being in a forward position.

    3. Invest in supportive shoes- Stiletto heels may look good, but they don’t do women any favors in the posture department.

    Dr Wilmot, a Clinical Research Fellow in Diabetes and Endocrinology based at the Leicester Diabetes Centre, Leicester General Hospital, said: “The average adult spends 50-70% of their time sitting so the findings of this study have far reaching implications. By simply limiting the time that we spend sitting, we may be able to reduce our risk of diabetes, heart disease and death”.

    Professor Stuart Biddle, of Loughborough University, said: “There are many ways we can reduce our sitting time, such as breaking up long periods at the computer at work by placing our laptop on a filing cabinet. We can have standing meetings, we can walk during the lunch break, and we can look to reduce TV viewing in the evenings by seeking out less sedentary behaviours.”

    About the Author

    Tammy McKenzie is a certified personal trainer and fitness specialist with a speciality in women’s fitness.

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