We know sitting for long periods is bad
for us, but do you really understand what
is happening to your bodies?
This week on The Pilates for Busy People Weekly show I talk to my physio about what happens to our bodies while we sit on it for long periods, and to give us some ideas and insights into how we can make things better for ourselves.
Charlotte qualified as a physiotherapist about 30 years ago and worked in the NHS for a period of time working intensive care, orthopaedics and then specialized in outpatients and musculoskeletal and treating sports injuries, bad backs. She also worked with Olympic sports for several years at Olympic cycle, short track speedskating and supported supported RGB badminton team in preparation for Beijing and for London
If we sit for long periods at her desk, what is it actually doing for to our bodies?
Physiologically, so how our systems work, what it’s doing is obviously we’re sitting so we’re not using our muscles. Sitting for long periods of time for long, extended years, you’re going to get muscle atrophy so your muscles wasting getting weaker. Especially in your buttocks and in your thigh muscles because you’re not standing, you’re not moving around.
That starts a bit of a downward cycle because they do support your back and your hips. You’re then starting to lose the support structure for your skeleton. It can compound all sorts of the weakness backs etc and leading towards injury.
We spend a lot of time teaching people how to use their buttock muscles. Plus we have all developed this bending, bending at the waist with straight legs instead of like children when they squat beautifully. They sort of bend at the knees and the hips with these lovely straight backs.”
What happens to our muscles doesn’t surprise me but what else happens to our bodies?
“The other thing about sitting, is our guts don’t work as well. Our guts and our hearts are designed to work when we’re standing and moving. So, sitting down you are compacting your abdominal area, and so this area doesn’t actually work as well.
Don’t forget it’s not all about sitting at a desk you need to think about your travelling time and sitting in front of the TV!”
“There’s the gut health, cardiovascular health, but then there’s the fact that because you’re not moving, you’re not then working through the food that you’ve taken it in right so you’re not metabolized your glucose or your sugars and your fats as well as you would if you were burning them so you put on more weight.
Talking of insulin we are not as efficient so you’re not controlling your glucose levels in your blood as well which leads to risks like diabetes, obesity etc
I did a bit of reading and actually sitting increases your risk or major illnesses and all causes of ill health, not just cancer not just cardiovascular, Alzheimer’s, cognitive performance, it’s obesity, diabetes it’s incredible actually how much I’ve have had my eyes open just as I started to check the latest research.”
“I find that really scary because I read a quote ages ago saying sitting is the new smoking and that was quite profound for me because we know what smoking does, we know that that kills people and its put it in perspective”
Peoples bodies must be telling them that all is not good?
“Their bodies maybe that you not firing quite so well. They are sluggish not just physically but mentally as well.
I certainly feel that and sometimes if I need to snap out of a daydream or drifting and not can’t make a decision, I go and get a coffee. So, is it having the coffee or is it getting up and walking and standing for five minutes while you make the coffee? It’s getting you moving.”
A lot of people are aware and do work out in the morning so the evenings and they’ll go to the gym or they do a Pilates class or they go to other classes. Is that going to help? Or do you still need and is that enough?
“If the majority of your day is sitting for 3,4,6 hours a day, actually then go into the gym doesn’t negate that six hours of sitting that’s which is quite actually quite a big impact. We I think all thought it did, yes. It doesn’t actually change.”
How do you change the impact of that prolonged sitting time is you have to break it up.
“There’s no research on definitely how often you have to get up. But it’s looking like every half an hour, which I always say every hour, and being generous, I think.
Research has been done so far is either one, two to three minutes in short bursts of activity. It does vary for age groups and on your body type and how fit you are.
If you’re in the older age groups have plus 65. If you’re obese, overweight, out of condition, not very fit, you can do a light to moderate walking around a light to moderate pace for two to three minutes, and it will have an impact.
You could stand up and move or if you’re fit an exercise regularly or physically active, you’ve got to work a bit harder. You’ve got to get your heart rate to be moderate to high intensity activity for those two to three minutes.”
“There is no definite research yet but we know standing is important so why not have a standing meeting like we are standing? Put your laptop on to a onto the top of or move your screen if you’re reading on the mantel piece or anything, or kitchen worktops?”
“So, it’s a way of working movement into your time.”
Check out Charlotte’s follow on Chat with some exercise and quick routines you can do by just standing up from your desk.