Going to the gym is not enough. You need to move throughout the day, says King physician, Dr. Holly Borders.
If you find yourself sitting at your desk at work for hours on end, it’s time to make a change. New research has found that frequently interrupting inactive behavior is crucial for your long-term health.
The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times and other major news outlets recently reported surprising new research findings on what some call “sitting disease,” recommending desk workers to get up and move around every 30 minutes, a change from an earlier recommendation that simply encouraged standing once an hour.
Failure to do so, evidence shows, may shorten your life.
Prior research has also drawn similar conclusions – those who spend long hours sitting are at risk for numerous health-related issues. These risk results may range from nuisance ailments like sluggishness and reduced blood flow to the legs, to alarming ones like chronic lower back pain, high blood pressure, obesity and depression.
This new study also emphasizes that while taking breaks throughout the day does help, taking them too infrequently will still cost you in the long term – even to the point of causing your life expectancy to dip. The experts made a point to emphasize that hitting the gym after work did not make up for long hours of sitting down – you must be moving around throughout the day.
Dr. Borders, a family medicine practitioner at Novant Health Mountainview Medical in King, said low back pain due to sedentary lifestyle and sitting at a desk chair too much is a complaint she hears frequently from patients.
Generally speaking, the more you get up and move around, the better off you will be – physically, emotionally and mentally.
“Inactivity leads to muscle weakness, which in turn can lead to back pain. The muscles in the back help to support the spine, so when these muscles are fatigued, strained or weak, back pain can happen,” Borders said. “I encourage my patients to stay as active as possible, even if it is just standing up and stretching at your workplace frequently throughout the day. The more active you are, the better.”
Dr. Sloan Manning, medical director of Novant Health Urgent Care and Occupational Medicine agreed.
“We encourage getting up frequently and moving around to keep your back from weakening,” Manning said, “and from allowing poor posture to basically take its toll on your back and back health. It’s a very common problem.”
As awareness toward workplace wellness has steadily grown, employers have begun to invest in ergonomic-friendly equipment that promotes free movement and blood flow. Ergonomics is the science of obtaining a correct match between the human body, work-related tasks and work tools.
Popular examples of these include standing desks and treadmill work stations.
“Fortunately, we’ve noticed that many companies are starting to incorporate ergonomics into their workplace design,” Borders said. “Ergonomics is the science of functional design within a system in order to improve human well-being and system performance, and I’ve seen companies offer ergonomic consultants, standing workstations, treadmill and bike workstations and more.
“These are great options in order to try to keep people as active as possible. Ultimately, happy and healthy employees will lead to better workplace efficiency and performance, so it is really a win-win.”
Do standing workstations fall outside your company’s budget? Simple tricks to remind you to move will suffice. Try setting an alarm on one of your devices, parking further away from your office and walking, taking more breaks to visit the water cooler to hydrate and doing a few sets of squats at lunchtime to kick-start blood flow back to your legs. Your body will thank you.